A delicious traditional Italian dish is "Osso Buco." The name means, literally, "hole in the bone", as the sauce gets its rich flavor from the veal bones and the tender marrow that's hiding inside.
My local Costco had veal shanks cut for osso buco at an excellent price recently, and knowing how much my husband loves this meal I decided to practice some Italian style cooking "dare il tempo al tempo" (giving time to time), and spent a half a day to prepare this slowly braised meal as a special treat for him.
I used Marcella Hazan's recipe from her cookbook "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking." Mrs Hazan has been called the "Godmother of Italian cooking, " and a nice interview with her can be read at this link on Epicurious.
I used only four large veal shanks instead of the 6 - 8 Mrs. Hazan's recipe called for, but I left all the other ingredients the same as I wanted the extra sauce to use a second time.
Here is Mrs. Hazan's recipe:
6 - 8 1 and 1/2 inch thick veal shanks, tied tightly around the middle
Flour, spread on a plate
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick butter) butter
1 cup diced onion
2/3 cup carrot -chopped fine
2/3 cup celery - chopped fine
1 cup dry white wine
2 strips lemon zest
1 cup beef stock
1 1/2 cups Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juices
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1/2 tsp fresh
2 bay leaves
3 - 4 parsley sprigs
salt and pepper
1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2.) Use a oven safe pot with a heavy bottom that is large enough to accommodate all the shanks in a single layer. Turn heat to medium and add 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 6 - 7 minutes. Add chopped garlic and lemon peel and cook another 2- 3 minutes until vegetables are wilted. Then tum off heat and set aside.
3.) Put vegetable oil into a skillet and turn heat on medium high. Turn the veal shanks in the flour, coating them all over and shaking off the excess flour.
When the oil in the skillet is quite hot slip min the shanks and brown them deeply all over. Remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon or tongs and lay them over the cooked vegetables in the pot.
4.) Tip the skillet and remove almost all of the oil used to brown the veal, and add the white wine and reduce it over medium heat while scrapping off all the browned bits of meat left behind. Pour the skillet juices over the veal in the pot.
5.) Pour the beef broth into the skillet, bring it to a simmer, and then pour it over the veal shanks in the pot.
Also, add the chopped tomatoes and their juices, the thyme, the bay leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. The juices should come up two thirds of the way up to the top of the veal shanks, if not add more broth.
6) Bring the liquids in the pot to a simmer, cover the pot tightly and place in lower portion of the oven. Cook for about two hours or until the meat feels very tender when prodded by a fork, and a creamy thick sauce has formed. Turn the shanks in the pot about every 20 minutes. If, while the osso buco is cooking the sauce becomes insufficient, add two tablespoons of water at a time , as needed. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Traditionally osso buco is served with an aromatic mixture called "gremolada,"that is added at the last minutes of braising, but Mrs. Hazan does not add it, and neither did I, as I didn't want to add more garlic to the dish, but I'll include the ingredients if you wish to use it.
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced Italian parsley
Combine the ingredients evenly and sprinkle over the meat when the shanks are fully cooked, and cook another two minutes.
At the same time the osso buco was cooking, I cut two medium size butternut squash in half, coated them with some melted butter, and roasted them until they were soft when pieced with a fork.
I wanted to add some squash to a side dish of prepared risotto, to make this meal have an autumn accent. I also steamed string beans as another side dish.
Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup hot water1/4 C dry white wine
2 - 3 cups hot chicken stock
1 Tbsp cold butter
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano ( or more to taste)
1 cup of warm roasted butternut squash, cubed (I reserved rest of the butternut squash,and refrigerated it to use for soup on another day, recipe to follow on another blog post)
Note:- Do not rinse the rice, the starches on the outside of the grains is what makes the risotto creamy. The chicken stock must be hot when you add it to the rice, so keep it in a saucepan on low heat on the stove while you're cooking.
1.)Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened.
2.)Add the rice and cook until the rice is coated with fat and starts to turn translucent around the edges.
3.)Lower the heat to medium low, add the wine and cook while stirring until the wine has been absorbed.
4.)Add one cup of the chicken stock, keeping it at a simmer, and cook uncovered while stirring constantly until almost all of the liquid as absorbed.
5.)At this point add the chicken stock about 1/3 cup at a time. Keep it at a low simmer, and cook the rice while stirring constantly.
If you start running low on chicken stock, go ahead and use hot water. Continue adding ladle fulls of broth, waiting until each addition has been almost absorbed before adding the next, cook while constantly stirring until the rice has is al dente, fully cooked but still retains a slight chew in the center.
6.)Take off heat and stir in a tablespoon of cold butter and grated Parmigiano and warm cubed pieces of butternut squash. Mix well and serve.
To serve the osso bucco, transfer cooked veal to a warm platter, carefully removing trussing strings without allowing the meat to fall apart, pour the sauce over and serve at once.
Needless to say my husband was thrilled with this dinner, and I have a feeling I'll be looking for veal shanks on sale more often to make it again!
An added bonus was that I was able to reserve about two cups of the sauce from the completed osso buco, because I cooked four shanks, instead of six. I used one cup of the sauce one evening as a topping for pasta, (see below) and froze the other cup for use at another time.
So although it takes time to make osso buco I was able to prepare a few complete meals from the preparations I did that day, which is always helpful.
Because we are on a Roman holiday of sorts, I thought I'd share a few pre-digital photos I scanned of an Italian holiday my family went on in May of 2001, and some favorite photos of Rome:
This photo was taken from the window of the Vatican Museum, as we waited on the long line to glimpse the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo (photography of the ceiling was forbidden, but you can see all of it on the web site) I love this panoramic shot as you can see one of the seven hills of Rome .In this photo you can see my children and husband standing in front of St. Peter's Basilica. Notice the shorts my son (in the middle) is wearing? He was not allowed inside the basilica because shorts or sleeveless shirts are not allowed, for modesty reasons, even though his shorts were not all that short and they covered his knees. He and my husband had to exchange pants in the men's room so that he would have a chance to be able to see the interior of the church.
This has become one of our favorite anecdotes about our stay in Rome!
In this photo my husband and I are in front of theTrevi Fountain and yes, we did make sure to throw three coins with our right hand over our left shoulder into the fountain to make sure we come back to Rome one day as the legend states! Hope that will come true soon!
We spent an entire month touring all of Italy from north to south by train, making many stops along the way to stay in many cities. It was a dream come true for my husband to show us the country where he was born, and for us to meet his aunts, uncles, cousins and their children who still live in Italy, from the city of Susa in the Piedmont Region in the north, to his home town in Calabria, in the Reggio Calabria Region in the south.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, and it is filled with history, art, music, delicious cuisine and warm and friendly residents.I hope you have been tempted to take your own dream vacation to Italy one day!