A bone to pick

An old Italian favorite, osso buco is slow-cooked veal in a flavorful sauce.

By FAYE LEVY
February 26, 2009 11:59
A bone to pick

ossobucco weekend1902. (photo credit: )

 
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During a trip to Italy, one of the specialties I enjoyed most was the celebrated "osso buco," a beautiful dish of veal shank slices in a savory sauce. For centuries, Italian cooks have been using this cut of veal to best advantage and their method has been adopted throughout the Western world. The round bone in the center of veal shank slices gives them a unique appearance, and the Italians have named both the cut of meat and the dish made from it for this characteristic bone. Osso buco literally means "bone with a hole," or marrow bone. Some consider the soft, buttery-textured marrow the best part. It is delicious when eaten with a spoon or spread on Italian or French bread. Braising is the most popular technique for cooking veal shank slices; they are floured lightly, browned and simmered in wine and broth with aromatic vegetables. During the slow cooking, the meat becomes tender, while the braising liquid is enriched by the natural gelatin in the bones and turns into a flavorful sauce. Tomatoes and garlic are often included, as are Mediterranean herbs. Olives are frequent additions; Italians occasionally add a few chopped anchovies. Jack Czarnecki, author of Joe's Book of Mushroom Cookery, adds fresh mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms to his osso buco, which he serves over fresh pasta. The classic Italian garnish for osso buco is gremolata, a mixture of minced garlic, grated lemon or orange zest and parsley. You sprinkle it over the dish shortly before serving so the flavors keep their fresh punch. Veal shanks also marry well with fruit. Prunes and other dried fruit are good additions, paired with dry wine or citrus juice to balance their sweetness. You could even add sweet potatoes and make osso buco tzimmes! If you can't find veal shank slices at your butcher shop, you can use veal stew meat; if the meat is boneless, use about two-thirds as much as in the recipes below. In our home, we also love osso buco made with beef shank slices. They, too, have delicious marrow and their meat has a similar luscious texture. They also produce a rich, flavorful sauce and enable you to enjoy osso buco at a more reasonable price. Cooking Tip: In the following dishes, to substitute beef shank slices for the veal, allow 21⁄2 to 3 hours of simmering time; add liquid occasionally if the sauce becomes too thick. OSSO BUCO, TRADITIONAL ITALIAN STYLE Saffron risotto is a traditional Italian accompaniment for the braised veal shanks, but they are also good with boiled, steamed or mashed potatoes. Serve the meat with small spoons for scooping the marrow from the bone. Makes 4 servings

  • 4 cross-cut 5-cm. slices osso buco, from meaty part of veal shanks (about 12⁄5 kg. total)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup flour
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a 400-gr. can tomatoes, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes chopped
  • 11⁄2 cups veal, beef or chicken stock or broth, or more if needed
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • Gremolata (see Note below) For braising veal in oven, preheat oven to 175ºC. Choose a large saute pan or heavy stew pan that can hold veal slices in 1 layer. Pat veal dry. Sprinkle veal slices on both cut sides with salt and pepper. Spread flour on a plate. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dredge veal pieces on both cut sides in flour. Pat off excess flour. Add veal to hot oil and brown on both cut sides, in 2 batches if necessary, taking about 3 minutes per side. Transfer meat to a large plate. Add onion, carrot and celery to pan. Cook over low heat, stirring often and scraping to dislodge brown bits, for 7 minutes. Add wine, garlic, parsley stems, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer, stirring. Boil, stirring, until pan is nearly dry. Return veal to pan with bone standing up. Spoon tomatoes around meat and add their juice. Pour stock into pan and bring to a boil. Push herbs into liquid. Cover and braise veal in oven or over low heat about 11⁄2 hours or until meat is tender when pierced with a thin-bladed knife but slices are not falling apart. Prepare Gremolata - see Note below. Transfer veal carefully to a platter with a slotted spatula. Discard parsley, thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir tomato paste into sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil, stirring often, until sauce lightly coats a spoon and is reduced to about 2 cups. If sauce is too thick, add a little more broth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Return veal to pan and spoon sauce over to coat it. Cover and let stand until ready to serve. Just before serving, cover veal and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle gremolata evenly over veal and a little over sauce at sides of meat. Cover and cook over low heat 2 minutes. Serve immediately. NOTE: To make gremolata, mix 1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, 1 very finely minced garlic clove and 2 Tbsp. minced parsley with a fork in small bowl. OSSO BUCO, MIDDLE EASTERN STYLE These succulent veal shanks are flavored with fresh dill and Lebanese Seven Spices blend. Serve it with rice pilaf, couscous or rice-shaped pasta. Makes 4 servings
  • 4 cross-cut 5-cm. slices osso buco, from meaty part of veal shanks (about 12⁄5 kg. total)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup flour
  • 800-gr. can tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved and strained
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 2 cups meat or chicken broth
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1⁄2 tsp. Seven Spices mix (see Note), baharat or ground allspice, or to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped dill Follow the first two paragraphs of the previous recipe. Add onion and carrot to pan. Cook over low heat, stirring often and scraping in brown bits, for 7 minutes. Add 1⁄2 cup broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and pepper flakes and bring to a simmer, stirring. Return veal pieces to pan with bone standing up. Spoon tomatoes around meat and add their juice. Add remaining broth and bring to a boil. Cover and braise veal in oven or over low heat about 11⁄2 hours or until tender when pierced with point of a thin-bladed knife but slices are not falling apart. Transfer veal carefully to a platter with a slotted spatula. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir tomato paste into sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil, stirring often, until sauce lightly coats a spoon. Add 1⁄2 teaspoon spice mix, cayenne, salt and pepper. Return veal to pan of sauce and spoon sauce over to coat it. Bring to a simmer before serving. Stir 11⁄2 tablespoons dill into sauce. Serve sprinkled with remaining dill. NOTE: To make the Seven Spices blend, mix 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper with 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. ground ginger and 1 Tbsp. ground cardamom. Add 3 of the following spices: 1 Tbsp. paprika, ground coriander, ground cumin or allspice; 11⁄2 tsp. freshly grated or ground nutmeg, or 1 tsp. chili powder or ground cloves. Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dinner Inspirations and Feast from the Mideast.

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