If you have never had osso buco (alla milanese), you are missing one of the most exquisite dishes ever concocted. Served with saffron flavored risotto, the delicate taste of the veal shanks braised in wine, tomatoes and aromatics is what I would order for my last meal on earth. It is surely what God in heaven eats regularly.
Originating in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, osso buco (“bone with a hole”) has a tasty marrow filling that I save for the last bite. I use a long handled baby spoon to reach for every last morsel of the marrow. Marrow spoons used to be a part of silverware sets, back when wasting anything edible was unheard of. If you are opposed to eating veal, then this dish is not for you. I have no opposition to veal, other than the exorbitant price that veal shanks and chops carry. That, along with the difficulty finding any veal at all, keeps me from enjoying it as often as I would like.
Sometime I will prepare polenta instead of risotto with the osso buco. Today, I am fixing the risotto.
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
4 -5 pieces veal shanks, 2″ thick, tied around the edge with string to prevent them from falling apart
flour for dredging the veal
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped carrot
3/4 c. chopped celery
1 – 2 t. minced garlic
1 c. dry white wine
1 can tomatoes, whole or diced with liquid
bouquet garni (cheesecloth wrapped bundle of 4 parsley sprigs, 4 thyme sprigs and a bay leaf)
2 c. chicken broth
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley
1 T. lemon zest
1 large clove garlic, minced
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter. Meanwhile, season the veal on both sides with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.
3. When the oil is hot, brown the meat on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Place them on a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.
4. Add the chopped vegetables to the oil and stir constantly to prevent the garlic from burning. When the veggies are soft, add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and their juice.
5. Put the veal back in the pan and add enough of the chicken broth to come almost to the top of the veal. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Add the bouquet garni.
6. Cover tightly and put in the preheated oven for 2 hours.
7. Prepare the gremolata by combining the 3 ingredients and setting aside in a small serving dish.
About a half hour before the veal is done, start cooking the risotto. There are supposedly shortcuts to making risotto to keep the cook from having to stand over the stove for 30 minutes, constantly stirring the rice, but I’ve never tried them. I just know that I need to dedicate the last half hour of meal prep to the risotto and I try to either get everything else done beforehand, or I delegate other chores. (Volunteers, anyone?)
Here is my risotto recipe for occo buco.
3 T. butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. risotto (Arborio rice)
1/2 c. dry white wine
3 c. chicken broth and 1 c. water
1 t. salt
couple saffron threads
1 T. butter
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1. Put the broth and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, but keep it simmering lightly.
2. Heat the butter in a heavy bottom 3 qt. saucepan over
medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, but don’t let it brown. After about 3 minutes, add the rice and stir to coat the rice with the butter.
3. Pour the wine over the rice and stir. Let the wine evaporate almost entirely.
4. Crumble the saffron and add to the rice. Then add the stock, just 1/2 c., to the rice and stir nearly constantly to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the broth/water mixture has nearly evaporated, add the next 1/2 c. broth.
5. Continue in this manner, adding broth and stirring, until almost all the broth is used, about 20-25 minutes. Keep the heat on a medium-low setting. The goal is to let the rice slowly absorb the liquid and attain tenderness in its own time. Depending on the rice, it can take as little as 20 minutes, or as much as 30. It can take 3 c. of liquid or 4. Taste the rice to determine when it is tender. You don’t want “al dente” rice here, you want a creamy tenderness. You may have some liquid left over, or you may need to add more. It’s a judgment call.
6. When the rice is tender and has absorbed all the broth it is in, add the last tablespoon of butter and stir in the Parmesan.
Serve with the veal and juices on top of the risotto. Enjoy with a glass of Italian wine, either white or red, a green salad and some crusty bread to sop up any remaining juice on your plate.