A braised bone with a hole is always welcomed in cold weather. Ossobuco is royalty for braised meat fans. It is a Milanese specialty that stars the cross-cut of a veal shank. If you’re having an Ossobuco that does not comprise of a veal shank, you need to fight for your party to buco. This is my recipe for this wonderful dish, along with more trivia information about ossobuco.
Ossobuco, the bone with a hole
Bone with a hole? Italians love to label items for what they truly are. The hole represents the unctuous bone marrow in the center of the veal shank cross-cut. Bone marrow is all the rage these days. No gastropub / modern restaurant is complete without it (and I have no qualms with that at all). As the veal shank braises, the bone marrow seductively and slowly melts, oozing its umamai and animalistic flavors into the braising liquid. This further drives the overall ossobuco to achieve its greatness.
As it is in the culinary world, the best tasting parts of an animal are those that had to work for a living. The shank is no exception. The only caveat, is that like other tough, stringent cuts of meat with high levels of tissue connectivity, it requires a low and slow cooking approach. Braising the veal shanks for 2-3 hours, provides the ample time and love for the ossobuco to transfigure into a luscious, tender offering.
Traditionally, ossobuco is served with risotto alla Milanese (Milan loves its risotto, who can blame them ; rice was born in water, but meant to die in wine) and garnished with a gremolata (a mix of parsley, lemon zest, anchovies, and garlic). There are two types of ossobuco. The original Milanese ossobuco did not include any tomatoes. It was braised only in white wine and flavored with aromatics that include cinnamon and bay leaves. The more popular and modern version of ossobuco still uses white wine as its braising base, but also includes canned (or fresh) tomatoes, celery, carrots, and onions. This recipe is a modern interpretation of the braised veal shanks.
Ingredients for an ossobuco
- 8 veal shanks, cross-cut
- 2 cups of dry white wine
- 1 can San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 white onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 6 cloves of garlic
- All-purpose flour
- Olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using a pan that you can also throw into the oven, without having it melt on you, heat up over high olive oil. Dredge the veal shanks into flour and dust off the excess. Season it with salt and pepper and throw it into the hot olive oil. Don’t be alarmed if some olive splashes or if the pan smokes. You want to develop a beautiful crust/char onto the veal shank on both sides, almost to the point of burning it. This dramatically increases the ossobuco flavor (and texture). Each side will take at least five minutes. Be mindful not to overcrowd the pan with veal shank pieces, you do not want to the pan’s temperature to fall too much.
While the meat sears away, use a blender of sorts to finely mince the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. The smaller the mince, the better. Once all the veal shanks are seared, reduce the pan’s heat to medium, toss in a bit of butter and olive oil, followed by the minced vegetables. Allow these to saute until they turns translucent and softens. At this point, add the white wine, bay leaves, and rosemary. Allow the white wine to reduce, which will burn off some of the alcohol and sweeten the wine taste, by at least half. This could take 5-10 minutes.
After the white wine reduces, incorporate your canned tomatoes and allow to simmer together for another 5-10 minutes. Always want those flavors to marry. Add the veal shanks to the braising liquid. The liquid should reach about half-way up the sides of the veal shanks, as the shanks should be only partially submerged in the tomato liquid. Ove the pan with tin foil and throw the veal shanks into the oven. This is where all the final magic happens. Allow them to braise for at least 2.5 hours and up to 3.
When completed, remove from the oven and place the veal shanks onto a family style serving platter. Place the braising liquid on the stove over high heat and allow it to reduce for 5-10 minutes. Once slightly reduced, turn off the stove and finish it off with whisking in a couple pieces of butter. Pour this deliciously, veal-flavored tomato wine sauce (thank the bone marrow) over the veal shanks. Garnish with a gremolata (optional) and serve with either a risotto, mashed potatoes, or a puree (I served in with a butternut squash puree).