Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Osso Buco alla Milanese

Osso Buco originates from Milan, in the northern part of Italy.  Cross-cut veal shanks are slowly braised in the oven with vegetables, wine and broth.  It is served with gremolata.


Browning onion rings and veal shanks

Sauteeing vegetables

Addition of tomatoes and liquids

Veal shanks, vegetables and liquids in a roasting pan

Flat leaf parsley, garlic and lemons

Zest and finely chopped garlic and parsley


Osso Buco alla Milanese

Osso Buco alla Milanese
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
4-5 pieces cross cut veal shanks
1 small onion, sliced into ¼” rings
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 ¼ cups dry white wine
1 ¼ cups chicken or veal stock
2-3 strips thinly pared lemon rind
3-4 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1.        Preheat the oven to 325°F. 
2.       Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Dredge veal shank pieces in the flour, and shake off any excess flour.
3.       Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven.  Brown the onion rings and veal shanks on all sides.  You may have to do this in two batches.  Drain on paper towels and set aside. 
4.       In the same olive oil, sauté onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves and garlic.  Cook about 5 minutes to soften the vegetables.
5.       Add the chopped tomatoes, wine, broth and lemon rind.  Scrape bottom of pot to bring up the fond.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring gently.  Return the veal shanks to the pot and spoon sauce over them.  Cover and cook in the oven for about two hours or until veal is tender.
6.       In the meantime, make the gremolata.  Mix together chopped parsley, lemon zest and chopped garlic.
7.       Remove the casserole from the oven.  Discard bay leaves and lemon rind.  Serve hot with gremolata sprinkled over it.

When I first heard of this dish I knew I had to have it.  The name alone sounds rich and hearty.  I was not disappointed. 

While preparing to make this dish for this post, I had to pick my daughter up from school and take her to her swimming class.  So I prepped all of the ingredients beforehand.  As I opened the door on my return, I was greeted with the aroma of garlic, onions, tomatoes, wine, broth, and lemons.  “Oh,” I thought, “we’re going to have a great dinner!”

Browning or searing the meat gives the meat a beautiful color and seals in all of the juices.  We add the onion rings to the browning veal shanks to flavor the meat and the oil.  When we add the other vegetables, we build more flavor.  The wine deglazes the pan and allows for easy incorporation of the fond, that brown stuff at the bottom of the pot which holds the caramelized meat and onion juices.  And that long slow braise gently but thoroughly cooks the meat and breaks down the collagen and tough connective tissue.  Braising tenderizes tough cuts of meat and infuses them with the bouquet of the other ingredients’ flavors.

As you can see from my pictures, I had to cook the Osso Buco in a baking pan.  The five pieces wouldn’t fit in my Dutch oven.  I covered it tightly with aluminum foil and placed the baking pan on top of a roasting pan.  This was to catch any sauce that seeped under the foil, as well as to add an extra layer of insulation between the heating element of the oven and the baking pan.  By doing this, I mimicked using a Dutch oven.  Half way through the cooking time I checked my dish.  The vegetables were breaking down.  I also adjusted the seasonings.

At this point I made my gremolata which traditionally accompanies Osso Buco alla Milanese.  Gremolata always includes garlic and lemon zest, but after that the ingredients vary.  Some cooks use mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, or a combination of herbs.  Some cooks even add anchovies!  The reason for using gremolata is to cut the richness of a dish.  Or simply to add a fresh flavor. 

Finally, the 2-hour time was up.  The whole house smelled divine!  I carefully removed the pan from the oven.  Steam arose when I uncovered the dish.  I placed a veal shank in each soup bowl, and then ladled some vegetables and sauce over it.  Then I sprinkled the gremolata. 

Osso Buco is traditionally served with Risotto alla Milanese.  It may also be served with plain boiled rice, polenta or even bread.  The vegetables were tender but not mushy; they must have retained their texture because of the gentle heat.  The meat was very tender and was falling off the bone.  It was beefy and satisfying.  The crowning glory of this dish for me is the marrow which is nestled inside the large shank bones.   The marrow may be scooped out but I prefer to hold the bone firmly with one hand and thwack it against my other hand.  It then comes out in one piece.  I took half of it and spread it on my bread…ah, it was so rich!  I kept going back for more gremolata because it complimented the dish so well.  Although this dish isn’t quick to make, it is well worth the effort. 

So when are you going to make Osso Buco?

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