This classic Italian dish gets it name from the hole in the shank bone. Osso=bone, buco=hole. It is typically made using veal shank sliced that are around 2″ think. If your butcher does not have them fresh, ask them. They may have them packed into bags and on a shelf in the freezer section. Naturally, fresh is going to taste a bit better, but if frozen is all you can find and you put enough love into the rest of the preparation, you would never know the difference. For this preparation, I used frozen shanks from a reputable butcher.
The main cooking technique used in this dish is Braising. Braising is both a dry and moist cooking method. The main ingredient in the dish is first seared on all sides and then slow cooked with a liquid. This way of cooking meats allows for a long thorough cooking to soften tough meats and tissues. The key to this dish is all the goodness that the meat is braising in. Most recipes you may find call for small amounts of the mix of onions, carrots and celery, also known as mirepoix. Not this one. I also leave some of the vegetables large so that they become an integral part of the dish. This isn’t all about the meat!! This is about the marriage of all the ingredients!!
This dish is typically served with a gremolata (citrus zest and parsley finely chopped) and risotto, which is wonderful if you go that route. I chose to serve this dish as is, straight out of the pan, with a touch of gremolata to bring a high note back to the dish. For all the folks watching the amount of grains you are eating, this is a one-pot-wonder.
One thing I did that stretched this recipe far from its Milanese origins is to incorporate a little Calabrian chili paste. Calabria is the very tip of the Italian boot and is know for its wonderful seafoods and its extraordinary chili peppers! The addition of this little kick takes this wonderful classic dish and puts it in a Formula 1 racing car! YUM!!
4ea shank slices
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
a little butter or olive oil
1 massive onion or 2 medium, small dice
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1″ pieces
4 giant stalks celery, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1″ pieces
Handful of cherry tomatoes or similar small tomatoes
small bunch of fresh thyme
3-4 cups stock
1-2 tbls Calabrian chili paste or other Garlic Chili paste. NOT sriracha.
zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped fine
Preheat your oven to 400 if it is conventional and 350 if convection. Salt and lightly pepper your shanks. Gently roll in the flour and knock off any excess. In a large, 11″ or so, cast iron pan or a similar pan on medium high heat, melt a tablespoon or so of butter or olive oil. When it is hot and right before it is smoking, Sear all sides of the shanks, rolling it on to the next side after it begins to brown. When all sides are seared, remove from the pan and place on a paper towel. Don’t worry if you couldn’t get every little curved surface of the shanks seared.
In the hot pan, saute the onions until they begin to get translucent. Add the carrots and celery; shaking or turning over the veggies regularly until they are beginning to caramelize or just show signs of browning. At this point add your shanks back into the pan by nuzzling them down into the mirepoix mixture. You want the meat to be surrounded by the veggies. Then add your stock so that the stock is just over half way up the shanks. Turn off the heat when your stock begins to boil. At this point, add your handful of tomatoes and your thyme sprigs around the pan. Neither need to be buried. You will be removing the thyme when the cooking is finished, so make sure to set yourself up for an easier task by keeping your thyme in little bunches around the pan. Cover and place in the oven to braise for 1-2 hours or until the meat gives way with a fork. Check every 30 minutes or so adding a bit more stock if the pan pan is drying out.
While it is cooking, zest your citrus and chop your parsley. Mix well to be able to sprinkle on your finished ossobuco. When it is done, remove the thyme stems and eat everything else! be sure to savor the most nourishing part of the entire dish: the bone marrow! It is best served on a little bit of fresh bread.
and Buon Appetito!!!!!