Monday, July 10, 2006

Osso Bucco

My friend M who lives in the crisp, wintry Blue Mountains asked me for a recipe for Osso Bucco last week, which was a coincidence because I had just scored myself some stunning examples of the species from DJ’s butchery in the City. It’s a very easy recipe and like most Italian food, the key is to find the best ingredients – in other words excellent veal. It’s also one of the most warmingly satisfying cold weather dishes I can think of, so now is a perfect time to indulge in a plateful. The dish comes from Northern Italy, the Lombardy region and most notable are those from Milan, although you can find versions throughout Italy. Some very old recipes don’t use tomatoes (tomatoes only came to Europe after the 16th Century and were used in Italian cooking from the mid 19th century) but my version is from more contemporary recipes where tomato is included.

In Italian, Osso Bucco literally means ‘bone with a hole’ or ‘hollow bones’, so as you would expect this is the main feature of the dish. The traditional recipe uses veal shank sawn in 1-2 inch thicknesses horizontally across the bone so your cut of meat has a ring of marrow-filled bone surrounded by flesh. It’s this marrow cooked in the bone that’s the most luscious part to eat and imparts the rich flavour into the sauce. Many butchers sell beef osso bucco, but frankly I think this produces a ham-fisted (pardon the pun) strong tasting version of it and you should always go for veal, which is of course a smaller piece of meat and has a much more delicate flavour. You can also get veal or beef ossi bucci in supermarkets these days, but my problem with them is that they are too thinly cut – usually about only 1cm – causing the piece to curl up at the edges when you brown them. Go for the thicker cut and it will hold together much more effectively through the cooking process. So snuggle up to your butcher and ask for veal osso bucco cut thickly. 1-2 pieces per person should be an ample serve, 3 if they are small pieces from the thinner end of the shank.

This recipe will provide enough to serve 6 and even if you don't have 6 people it's great, nay even better, heated up the next day.

8-10 ossi bucci
seasoned flour (plain flour with salt and pepper added)
1 carrot
1 large stalk of celery
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
150 mls white wine
400 g can of Italian Roma tomatoes
sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
strip of lemon rind
a few leaves of basil or oregano (optional)
about 500 mls chicken or veal stock

Prepare the vegetables by finely chopping the onion and cutting the celery and carrot into small dice. In Italian coooking this mix is called a sofritto and this step is important as the finely chopped veges give the sauce its body as texture.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy based pan to a medium hot temperature. You want to brown the meat but too high a heat will blacken the flour coating. Not good. Dust the meat with the seasoned flour, shake off any excess and fry in batches in the oil until browned, removing them to a plate as you finish each batch.

Turn the heat down a little, add another tablespoon of oil if the pan is looking dry and add the sofritto mixture, stirring to pick up any crusty bits left from browning the meat. Cook stirring occasionally for 5 or so minutes until the veges are starting to wilt but not colour too much. Add the garlic and stir. Add the white wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates - about 3-4 minutes - and add the tomatoes and herbs and lemon rind. Season to taste. Arrange the browned meat back into the sauce in one or two layers. One layer is better. The principle is that you want to simmer the meat undisturbed so the marrow doesn't fall out. If there's not enough sauce to cover the meat add as much of the stock as you need and shake the pan to distribute the sauce.

Cover with a lid and simmer at lowest temp on top of the stove, or place in a 160 C oven fanforced (180C if you don't have a fanforced oven) for 90 minutes - 2 hours until the meat is very tender. It shouldn't dry out, but check it once or twice and if the sauce reduces too much add a little more stock.
When you serve it, lift the meat out gently so as not to lose the marrow in each piece. It's gross I know but I love sucking the marrow out of these bones. It’s a creamy, meaty luscious flavour so please give it a go. I have several friends who find the whole marrow thing unpalatable and I always invite them round when I cook this dish because they donate their marrow to me.

Traditionally this is served with Risotto alla Milanese as I’ve done here (made with saffron, bone marrow, parmesan and butter), but you can serve it with any risotto, normal rice, pasta, wet polenta, or even mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley, or to be very authentic a gremolata. Take the zest of half a lemon, 4 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley and a finely chopped garlic clove and chop or mix together. Or throw the three ingredients into a food processor to chop and mix them. This is then sprinkled over by each guest onto their serving at the table.

Don't forget the parmesan :)


Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Ooh osso bucco is the best thing about winter methinks. And I, too, am aghast when people don't eat their bone marrow. Isn't that the whole point of eating osso bucco?!?

11:24 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Absolutely Helen! The very point - otherwise you'd use a different cut of meat.

12:26 PM  
Blogger PiCkLeS said...

wow thanks for that! would you believe that I've never come across osso bucco...another receipe for me to keep in mind.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

oh yes - and it will become a favourite for sure Pickles!

5:01 PM  
Anonymous jules said...

am very impressed that you gone the whole hog and served your osso buco with risotto milanese...I normally cheat and go for polenta or mash...
love that you have Madame Bollinger's quote on your's one of my favourites

5:10 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

why thanks Jules :) glad you appreciate it!

5:17 PM  
Blogger neil said...

Thanks for reminding me that I need to do one before winter is over. Yours looks divine, but perhaps you shouldn't invite me over 'cause I might pinch the bones off your plate.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Yes you must 'Taco - no winter is complete without one! I know your type. "Look over there quick!" the marrow disappears from the plate.

3:39 PM  
Blogger neil said...

That's me, and I make no bones about it.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Kazandra said...

Osso Bucco is a very 'hole'-some meal!!! Not only for winter...

9:19 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Osso Bucco looks nice, it will sure warm up many in the cold winter days.


1:05 PM  
Anonymous Mick said...

great meal, i have made this many times, same recipe bar the lemon rind (which im keen to add)

actually making it for 20+ people this weekend,

with any luck it will turn out as good as always.

5:16 PM  

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