Friday, September 12, 2008

Veal Osso Buco - Good and Slow

Osso buco is one of those meals that is really enjoying a surge of popularity. Through the winter months, I have been hard-pressed to find an upscale cafe or restaurant not offering this delicious dish as a special. It is warm and rich and tender. It is also surprisingly easy to make as long as you are not in a rush. As i have been thinking about it this morning, I have decided that it is the absolute diametric opposite of a quarter pounder, if foods have opposites. If you are thinking about making this, my best suggestion is do it on the weekend or on a day when you have a few chores around the house so you can just let it slowly simmer away. You will be rewarded with a sensational dinner. It also thanks you for letting it sit for a day or two in the fridge, with even richer more developed flavours.

The literal translation of "osso buco" means bone with a hole in it (thanks Wiki), and it is usually made with veal shanks, that have been cut horizontally across the bone. Traditionally it is served with a gremolata on top, but instead, my recipe works some orange zest into the sauce, so you get some lovely citrus background flavours. The long slow cooking intensifies all the tastes resulting in a sauce that is so good, we freeze the leftovers to use on other dishes or pasta. If you are that way inclined, the marrow from the bones is great as well. I would love to give credit for the source of this recipe, but I cut it out of a magazine years ago (decades even?) and stuck it into one of my collection of recipe scrapbooks, without thinking about including any attribution. Apologies and kudos to whoever first made this osso buco.
Osso Buco
1.5 kg veal shanks, cut horizontally into 5cm pieces
Plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tbls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
500ml red wine
1 litre chicken stock
6 egg tomatoes, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
200 ml veal glace or veal stock (optional as this is sometimes hard to get and / or expensive, but it really is worth it in the end).
zested rind of 1 orange
Toss osso buco in flour. Heat oil in a large saucepan, then brown the osso buco in batches until it is nice and golden on both sides. Remove from pot. Add onion, garlic and carrot to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5-8 mins until golden (add more oil if you need to). Add red wine, bring to the boil then stir to release any yummy caramelized pieces from the bottom of the pan (lots and lots of flavour in those pieces!). Return osso buco to the pan with remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover and cook in the oven at 180C for 2 1/2 hours, or until meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bone.
Very carefully lift the osso buco out of the pot (if you are not careful the meat will come off the bone - not a disaster if it happens but it looks prettier if it is still on the bone - not sure "prettier" is the right word but you know what I mean!). Discard the bay leaves then process the sauce in a blender until smooth, and then push it through a strainer to make it even smoother (skip this if you can't be bothered - your sauce will be less silky but will taste just as good.) If your sauce is too runny, put it back in the pot and reduce it until you are happy with the consistency. Otherwise, return sauce and osso buco to the pot and warm through. Serve with pasta, potatoes, rice or bread - anything to mop up the sauce!

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