Last night I served all three loves of my life osso bucco, to celebrate the Love Day. While I knew John was pretty worked up over the prospect of having this restaurant classic whipped up at home (give us a break-with two bouncing, exhausting kids at home, it’s the only thing we have to get worked up over on Valentine’s Day) I was completely floored when both Lizzie and Jules demanded seconds and thirds on the meat, while leaving the side dish on their plates. However, this showstopper has its humble beginnings as a peasant dish, probably created to use up the leftover parts of any four- legged farm animal in times of scarcity (the tough, muscled foreleg). Unfortunately, veal shanks now cost more than a steak, so it’s a recipe to haul out for a special occasions. Of course, it’s the kind of dish that is so ethereal, you can create a special occasion just by making it: tender, falling-off-the-bone veal coated in its own unctuous, finger-licking braise broth, the roasted rich marrow in the bone….you get the idea. Serve it up with a classic risotto, and you’re in heaven.
What I love to do is get inspired by a recipe, then adapt it to my cooking style, tastes and knowledge.Though there are a lot of recipes out there, for a classic Italian peasant dish I went with a paisan I trust, Mario Batali; but I altered a few things or added some information that might be lacking for the home cook. For instance, I eliminated the pepper when seasoning the shanks, because pepper always ends up burning when I brown things. I also don’t have an oven-proof dutch oven- so instead, I used my trusty large oven-proof frying pan with a large domed lid. If you have neither, you can brown the shanks on the stove top in a frying pan, and follow the recipe as is- but instead, put the shanks and all the liquid from the frying pan into a large baking pan, and seal it up with foil. Make sure to use fresh thyme here, not the dried stuff. And for God’s sake, please do not use a commercial jarred tomato sauce here! If you have no idea how to make a good pot of “gravy”, please click on the recipe link below, or go and beg some from your friend’s Italian grandma. Trust me, you will taste a huge difference. Also, if you’ve never made risotto before, please note you have to use Aborio rice, or you’ll miss out on the heavenly creaminess that other rices can’t duplicate. Heat the chicken stock, or your risotto will take FOREVER. And I really don’t need to tell you to splurge on the good Parmesean and leave the stuff in the green cylinder for powdering your baby’s bottom, do I?
Osso Bucco With Risotto Milanese
(Adapted from a recipe from Mario Batali)
3-4 veal shanks (cut about 3 inches thick)
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves (off the stem)
2 cups of your favorite homemade tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
Risotto (see below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Season shanks with salt all over. In a 6-8 quart dutch oven (or large frying pan with a domed lid-either needs to be oven proof!), heat oil until smoking and brown shanks all over (even the sides), around 12-15 minutes taking care not to let the “browned bits” burn: you can add a drizzle of water to the pan from time to time to prevent this). Remove shanks and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add the carrot, celery, onion, and thyme with a sprinkle of 1/2 tsp. of salt; saute until slightly browned and softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Place shanks back into the pan (make sure they are submerged at least halfway; if not, add more stock or water). Cover the pan, and place in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours until the meat is nearly falling off the bone (yet still offers some gentle resistance. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes, serving with risotto.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. saffron threads
8 cups chicken stock, hot
1 1/2 cups Aborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 Tbs. of butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus more for passing at the table)
In a 12-14 inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until smoking. Add onion and 1/2 tsp. of salt, , and cook until translucent but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, add saffron to stock and stir. Once the onions are ready, add rice and stir until toasted and opaque, about 3-4 minutes. Add wine to the rice, then add a soup ladle’s worth of the stock and stir continuously until completely absorbed. Continue to add stock one ladle at a time (until totally absorbed) and stir until the rice is creamy and slightly al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese, season to taste, and serve with the osso bucco.