The luxury of osso bucco
If this is peasant food, who needs royalty?
By Susan Reilly email@example.com
Osso bucco, translated literally, means bone hole.
It is one of those dishes that seem harder to make than they really are, and once you have done it, it will become part of your repertoire.
Lowly peasant food because it comes from an undesirable cut that requires slow cooking to bring it to all its glory, osso bucco rewards patience. When it’s cooked properly, the veal will fall off the bone and be juicy and tender. The sauce will have been imparted with a rich, unique flavor from the marrow of the bone.
As with most Italian dishes, the recipes for osso bucco are simple, but the key to greatness is using top ingredients. We are lucky to have a few butchers in the area that stock veal shanks for this very dish. If you are planning a menu around osso bucco, they all advise that it is best to call a couple of days ahead to have them set aside the shanks that you need; in the winter months, they can sell out.
Also, the veal shank used in osso bucco is not something you can get just anywhere. At Bull Run in Hooksett, butcher Paul Labbe keeps a few shanks on hand and passes out recipes for osso bucco to curious customers.
“A lot of people come in here and have had osso bucco in restaurants but have never made it themselves at home; they seem intimated by it,” he said.
Labbe cooks osso bucco at home in a heavy casserole dish in the oven or in a large crock pot. Although traditionally osso bucco is served with a Milanese-style saffron risotto (see recipe) it is also wonderful over mashed potatoes, rice or polenta.
Labbe quarters potatoes and adds them to the osso bucco an hour prior to its completion.
“The potatoes, after cooking in the osso bucco, are out of this world,” he said.
Osso bucco is the poster child for traditional Italian cooking and many stand on ceremony when eating it. Hard-core traditionalists only use a veal shank (as opposed to a beef shank, which does not have the same flavor or tenderness), only serve it with the saffron risotto and rub it with a gremolada when the shank is nearly cooked. Gremolada is an aromatic rub, traditionally made of lemon peel, garlic and parsley, although other variations, such as Mario Batali’s toasted pine nut, lemon and parsley, work just as well.
Osso bucco can be made a day or two in advance, so it’s a great time-saving dish for entertaining. The key to reheating osso bucco is to do it gently over heat on the stove top by adding two tablespoons of water. If you are cooking ahead, do not add the gremolada until you have reheated the dish and are ready to serve.
Adapted from Mario Batali
four 3-inch-thick osso bucco (3½-4 lbs)
salt and fresh ground pepper
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 med. carrot cut into ¼-inch rounds
1 small Spanish onion cut into a ½-inch dice
1 rib celery cut into a ¼-inch dice
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cups basic tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups dry white wine
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Season osso bucco all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until smoking. Place the osso bucco in the pot and brown on all sides, 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add carrot, onion, celery and thyme to the pot and cook, stirring often until vegetables are golden brown and soft, 8-10 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, broth and wine and bring to a boil. Place osso bucco back in the pot and make sure it is submerged at least halfway. If necessary, add more broth.
Tightly cover the pot, place in the oven and cook for 2 to 2½ hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Remove from oven and let stand ten minutes before adding gremolada. Serve.
Risotto alla Milanese (saffron risotto)
From Mario Batali
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3½ cups chicken stock, hot
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
In a 12- to 14-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the saffron to the stock, stirring to infuse. Once the onions are translucent add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine to the toasting rice, and then add a 4- to 6-ounce ladle of the saffron-infused stock and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy and yet still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed and serve.
Marcella Hazan’s Gremolada
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (careful to avoid white pith)
¼ teaspoon garlic chopped very fine
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Combine and sprinkle over veal while they are still cooking, but done. Do not cook gremolada more than 2 minutes.
On the menu
Don’t want to bother making osso bucco? Here are a few places where they’ll do the work for you.
• 55 Degrees, 55 North Main St., Concord, 224-7192. Kurobuta pork osso bucco ($16) served with maple parsnip puree and sage oil
• Giorgio’s, 524 Nashua St., Milford, 673-3939, or 707 Milford Rd., Merrimack, 883-7333. Red wine braised lamb shank ($17.99) served with mushroom parmesan risotto, crispy fried arugula and lemon gremolata.