Being a food blogger around the holidays has its perks. My family not only loves food, but wanted to be a part of the blogging action! They invited me to cook a meal in their newly upgraded kitchen; let's just say this was more than a slight upgrade from my studio apartment. Also, the size of their kitchen matched their generosity in providing some of the best ingredients I've ever used.
My cousin, Alex, and I decided to prepare an Italian meal centered around osso buco, a braised veal shank that, when finished, should fall off the bone. Alex selected this recipe because it wasn't particularly complicated but still seemed elegant. We followed it with only minor adjustments - mostly related to my poor math skills.
We adjusted the recipe for 6 servings and used:
- 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 6 pieces of center-cut veal osso buco - ours were approx. 4 inches thick
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour - just enough to coat the osso buco
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 leeks
- 3 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine. We used a Pinot Grigio. A good rule of thumb: When the recipe calls for less than a full bottle of wine, only cook with a wine you don't mind drinking the rest of.
- 6 whole fresh sage leaves
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 42 oz. of crushed canned tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups of veal stock - you can also use chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley
- the zest of one lemon
First, get all of your vegetable prep out of the way. Start by peeling the onion and carrots. Then dice those, along with the celery and leeks, into 1/4-inch pieces, but if you prefer larger chunks of vegetables in your sauce, that will work fine, too.
Once you are done chopping all of the vegetables, place them all in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Then, unwrap the the veal shanks and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place 1/2 a cup of flour in a small bowl. Dip each veal shank into the flour to coat on both sides. Then set the meat aside.
We used a dutch oven to both brown and braise the meat. If you don't own a dutch or french oven, you can still make this recipe using two different pans: a skillet to brown the meat on the stove and then a roasting pan to braise the meat in the oven.
Whichever pot you are using, the next step is to saute the vegetables. First, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in the dutch oven or skillet. Then place all of the chopped vegetables into the pot and saute for 4 minutes. If you used larger chunks of vegetables, you may want to saute for an extra minute or two until they are soft to the touch.
Next, push the vegetables over to one side of the pot, and place the veal shanks into the pot. There should be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot, but if it looks a little dry, add a smidge more. Brown the meat on each side for 4 minutes. Scrape up any brown bits but leave them in for great flavor.
We only had room for 3 shanks at a time, so we browned in 2 shifts.
Once that is done, place all of the shanks back in the pot over the chopped vegetables. Or, if you're using a roasting pan, lightly grease the pan and transfer both the vegetables and the meat. Then, scatter the sage, rosemary, and bay leaves across the top. Since the herbs will be removed once the meat is cooked, you could bundle the herbs with twine so they will be easier to remove after braising. Unfortunately, we didn't think of this until afterwards, but we think it will make life easier.
Next, in no particular order add all of the liquids - white wine, veal stock, and crushed tomatoes. Give it a good stir and cover the pot.
If you're using a roasting pan that doesn't come with a lid, use heavy duty foil and be sure to seal it well. Then place the pot into the oven and set your timer for two hours.
While the meat is braising, you should prepare your side dishes. To start, we served a caprese salad along with an arugula and fennel salad with shaved parmesan and a lemon vinaigrette. With the main dish, we served roasted jewel potatoes with garlic and rosemary and steamed green beans.
By way of suggestion, we made a lemon-parsley gremolata to serve with the osso buco. This is simply the zest of 1 lemon mixed with 1 tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Our family was mixed on whether the gremolata enhanced the flavor of the meat. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the lemony condiment, but another cousin felt it added necessary brightness to the dish. Since there was a lot left over, Alex and I sprinkled it onto the green beans!
After 2 hours, you should check the osso buco. It should be fork-tender by this point, but if it doesn't fall apart to the touch give it another 20-30 minutes. Once the meat is done, set the pot on the stove, take the meat out, and set it aside on a serving platter.
Finally, reduce the braising liquid to a thicker sauce by bringing the pot to a boil on the stove top and then reducing to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. Place a small amount of the sauce in a gravy boat to allow your guests to use as much or as little as they want.
If you need suggestions for what to with your leftover shank bones, Billy, my favorite cousin, will always accept donations!