On a quick lunchtime trip to the supermarket for some seafood the other day, I passed right by the meat counter. Well, I meant to pass right by the meat counter, except there were some absolutely gorgeous veal shanks sitting in the case, with a hand-lettered sign over them proclaiming, “Osso Bucco!” Osso bucco? I have never made osso bucco. Actually, I’m not sure I had ever even tasted it, but that just made it more intriguing. I knew it would be good. I had a nice chat with the butcher, who also happened to be a chef, and I asked him what I needed to do to make osso bucco. He gave me a quick tutorial, and he wrapped up the beautiful, cross-cut shanks. I love chefs. I picked up a nice bottle of Italian wine and some San Marzano tomatoes. Actually, I picked up two bottles of wine. One for the osso bucco, and one for me. Then I was on my way!
Osso bucco means “bone with a hole” in Italian. From what I have read, it was originally a peasant or farmhouse dish. The shanks are first dredged in seasoned flour and seared on top of the stove in olive oil and butter, until they are a beautiful caramel color. The veal is removed from the pan, and then carrots, onions, and celery are added to the same pan and sauteed until they are also nicely caramelized. I added garlic, the zest of a lemon, and bay leaf and parsley from the garden. Once the vegetables are caramelized, the shanks are put back in the pan. A bottle of red wine (I used a nice Italian Chianti) is added and simmered until the wine is reduced by half. The rich, winey aroma is what Sunday dinner should smell like! After about 20 minutes, a little beef broth and a can of hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes are added to the pan. Then it is covered and placed in the oven to braise for and hour and a half. Finally, the osso bucco is braised for an additional half hour, uncovered.
Traditionally, osso bucco is served with pasta, risotto, or polenta. Since it is Sunday, and it is February, and it has been stormy here this weekend, I chose to serve mine a little Southern-style with creamy, cheesy stoneground grits. Sublime comfort food! Osso bucco is often served with gremolata, a condiment or topping that is traditionally made with parsley, garlic, anchovies and herbs. Using Tyler Florence’s recipe as a guide and our own local ingredients, I made our gremolata with toasted pecans, tangerine zest, dried cranberries, garlic, and parsley. It added a sweet-tart zing to the dish that is a wonderful complement to the richness of the veal and the sauce.
We enjoyed our Sunday Osso Bucco so much. While it takes time to slowly braise this dish in the oven, it is really quite simple to prepare, and I think the preparation method would also work very well for short ribs or lamb shanks. As an added bonus, the leftover sauce will be wonderful to dress up a midweek pasta dish. Mangia!