I could start this post off by rambling on about why I have been so scarce as of late, but that gets boring rather quickly. Instead I’ll just tell you I have moved into a new place, had a lot on my plate day job wise and life kinda ran away from me for a while. I hope to be posting more recently now that I am settled into my new man cave.
Winter is the time for slow cooked stews, soups and braises, and when it comes to braises, the Italian classic Osso Buco is right up there at the top of my list. The name Osso Buco (or Ossobuco depending on who you ask) literally translates to “bone with a hole”, in reference to the marrow hole found inside of a cross cut veal shin.
I first saw the recipe for the spectacular dish on Janice Tripepi’s blog on Food24 about a year ago. I placed it on my “Things to cook before I die” list, but because I couldn’t find veal at the time, I promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was watching a TV series where they cooked an amazing variation of it and I decided there and then that come hell or high water I will be cooking Osso Buco in the coming week.
I launched an extensive investigaton (read “I asked around on Twitter”) for a source of veal. As per usual Twitter delivered. I was chatting with the venerable @BigBigJoe1 and he mentioned that he gets his Osso Buco meat from Salvin, the Neighbourgoods Butcher at the Old Biscuit Mill. It’s not technically veal, but the meat is from younger animals than normal beef shin, and works perfectly for Osso Buco. Joe also pointed me at Janice’s recipe again and gave it his stamp of approval.
I must admit I was sceptical at the time on whether it would be worth driving all the way out there from behind the Boerewors Curtain (The northern suburbs of Cape Town, where I live) but I am happy to announce that it was well worth the drive. (It also didn’t hurt grabbing some buttermilk pancakes for breakfast while I was there).
So with thanks to Janice for the original inspiration and recipe, Joe for his knowledge of all things food and Salvin for being the Magic Meat guy, I give you my take on Osso Buco.
P.s. It’s pictured above with the traditional Risotto alla Milanese, but I’m not 100% happy with that part yet, so I’ll just give you the recipe for Osso Buco for now, I’ll add the risotto when I’ve mastered it. For an easier “Riso alla Milanese” (which uses normal rice, not risotto rise) have a look on Janice’s Blog, it works great!
Ingredients Serves 4
I’ve adjusted the quantities to work with my beautiful Le Creuset 30cm Buffet Casserole, you may need to adjust the amount of stock you use to suit your casserole. Try to use a deep, wide dish with a lid that is oven proof. The main thing is to make sure that the meat is covered with sauce while cooking in the oven.
For the Osso Bucco
- 1.5kg to 2kg veal shin (use beef shin if you can’t find veal but it will need to be cooked longer)
- 1 cup of flour
- generous pinch of salt and pepper
- knob of butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 stick of celery, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 70 g tomatoe puree
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 1 can Italian whole peeled tomatoes
- 500ml – 1L chicken stock (I use NoMu Chicken Fond religiously)
- 2 -3 bay leaves
- a handful of fresh Italian herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano etc)
For the Gremolata
- 1 large handful of flat leaf parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- zest of a lemon
- drizzle of olive oil
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees celsius.
Add the flour, salt and pepper to a tray and dust the piece of meat with it. If you have a large zip-loc bag you can also pop everyting in there and shake it about for a bit.
Brown the shin in some olive oil and butter on medium heat in the casserole you plan on using. Its important to get a decent amount of colour on the meat, this will lead to more depth of flavour in the end. Brown the meat in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. Remember kids, when cooking, colour equals flavour.
When you are done browning the meat, set it aside and pop in the vegetables. Get some colour on the veggies as wel, then pop in the tomato puree. Cook this out for a minute or two.
You will notice some sticky caramelised bits forming on the bottom of the pan. That stuff is essential to the flavour of the dish, so it is important that we incorporate it into the sauce, instead of just letting it burn on the pan.
To do this, we need to “deglaze” the pan, which basically just means lifting the caramelised food residue off the bottom of the pan using a liquid. Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, it should come off easily. Take the time to do this properly, you won’t be dissapointed. It’s important to get the maximum amount of flavours out of a dish when cooking, and these small steps all add up in the end.
After most of the wine has evaporated you should end up with a nicely coloured base of tomatoe and veggies as above. Now lets turn that into a sauce. Add the garlic, herbs, can of whole tomatoes (break these up a bit with the wooden spoon), bay leaves and 500ml of chicken stock and bring that to a low simmer. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning. With regards to the herbs, you can tie the sprigs together with a piece of string to make it easier to fish them out at the end.
Now you can add the beef shin back into the pan and add more stock if needed to cover the meat. Bring that up to a simmer and pop the lid on your casserole.
Place the casserole in the oven and let it cook “low and slow” for about 2 hours on 160 degrees celsius. Check it every 30 minutes or so, making sure the meat is still mostly covered with sauce. Taste the sauce when you do open it up, and adjust seasoning if need me.
The actual cooking time will vary on the quality and age of the beef you used, so start checking at about 90 minutes, you want to be able to effortlessly get the meat off the bone with a spoon. When the meat is tender enough, remove the dish from the oven, fish out the stalky bits left behind by the herbs, and let it cool down somewhat while we make the traditional accompaniment for Osso Buco, which is Gremolata.
All it is, is parsley, garlic and lemon zest chopped up together. You may think that you don’t like lemon or parsley (I’ll not comment on how many points you just lost in my book) but please try this, the zing of the lemon really cuts through the fattiness of the dish and lifts up the flavour. Try it, if you still don’t like it, I’ll forgive you, this time…
It’s really simple, just pop the garlic, parsley and lemon zest on a board and drizzle with some olive oil. Then start a choppin’. You should end up with something like this.
I like Janice’s suggestion of stirring two thirds of the Gremolata into the dish, and leaving some on the side to add to each portion as you dish up.
There you have it, an Italian classic that every self respecting gentleman should know how to cook properly. Play around with the quantities and flavour and make it your own.
As always, comments, questions, suggestions are most welcome :)