Or should that be “Oh-So Good Bucco?”
Okay, sorry about that, I couldn’t resist. And in my defense, I have spent a lot of time in my own company “resting” my ankle this week, and I possibly need more stimulating interaction than talking to myself. This meal is a winner! Now I know that I have made that claim before, and if you tested me on that, you will know that I was right then, and I am right now. Tender, melt-in-the mouth meat falling from the bone, simmered low and slow in white wine, creating a delectable sauce that is good enough to drink on its own. This Osso Bucco is quintessential winter entertaining. A true “one I prepared earlier,” pop in the oven, set the timer, and relax with your guests while it cooks. Traditionally served with risotto alla Milanese, it is also perfect with a mound of creamy mash or polenta – something to soak up all those wonderful juices. And did I mention how easy it is? Made last Tuesday following “the Garden Incident” which had left me with a bodgy leg, I was able to set it all up and then recline while the oven did all the work for me. Preparation is the important thing. I was going to serve with risotto, but as Mr L and TM don’t eat it, it hardly seemed worth the effort on one leg for half the dinner guests (plus it is a lot of work – as evidenced here and I preferred the recline and sip sherbet approach). Traditionally Osso Bucco is made with white wine and without tomatoes. I also make a red wine version for pasta ( a hearty meaty feed a crowd ragu) so I like the this “Bianco” version, although I did relent and add just a little tomato paste which helped to thicken the sauce and made it this wonderful colour.
Osso Bucco literally translates as “bone hole” – and yes the boys did find it amusing that we were having “bone hole” for dinner. Look for veal shanks that have been cut across the bone. Supermarkets sell “osso bucco” but if it is dark red then it is beef rather than veal. Not a problem, but the dish will have a stronger flavour and may take a little longer to to reach such a tender stage. Veal osso bucco is clearly labelled, and has a pink rather than red colour and some almost slightly grey – does not sound attractive I know but it tastes amazing. Worth seeking out, but for convenience the beef one is fine. I wanted to present each Osso Bucco as a complete piece on the plate as well, so I took some time choosing similar sizes and then tied them with kitchen string to assist with keeping their shape during the cooking time. If you are baking in a large tray as I did and not frequently turning the veal, you could probably give the string a miss – it is fiddly and time consuming. Start by dusting the veal in some seasoned flour, shake off the excess then brown over a medium heat.
Do this in batches so the pan does not overcrowd and lose too much heat – you want to caramelise the edges of the meat to enhance the flavour. Once nicely browned, place into the large baking dish you will be using and repeat.
While you are cooking you can prepare the vegetable and herb component of the dish. I made a bouquet garni from the garden – rosemary, thyme and bay leaf, and tied together so that it was easily retrieved from the dish after cooking (again – no string or you don’t mind a bit of herbage, just throw it all in)
Next we come to the “soffritto”, also known as the holy trinity of Italian cooking, or as we most commonly know it, onion, carrot and celery. Cut into a very fine dice, this provides the tasty element of the sauce. If you are not so handy with a knife, or want a more rustic look, a larger dice will taste the same of course – I have grown accustomed to trying to hide the vegetables and actually like the way the fine dice presents on the plate.
Of course there is garlic as well – just slice up a couple of cloves. I used two as they were the fattest cloves ever grown, but if you have smaller (or love garlic) use up to 4. Cook over a medium heat in the same pan used to cook the meat, adding some extra olive oil if needed. Cook for about 5 -8 minutes, until vegetables are softened and your kitchen smells italian.
Scatter the vegetables and herbs over the meat, ensuring that some nestles down beside the veal in the pan.
Pour over a cup of white wine, 2 cups of chicken stock with a large dollop of tomato paste mixed through. Cover the dish tightly with foil (a double layer is even better) and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours. Now, you can just leave it alone for that time, but if you are like me, you will be curious to see what is happening, so about the one hour mark, remove foil, check that the meat is becoming tender and that the liquid is still at least half way up the shanks. Add more stock if needed here. If you like, you can turn the osso bucco at this stage, but be very gentle, especially if you are presenting as a whole piece per person. If you intend breaking the meat up, knock yourself out! Cover again and then return to oven. If you are not happy with how tender the meat is (ie you might have bought beef rather than veal) you can now check every 15 minutes and then adjust the cooking time accordingly. Truthfully, don’t bother; you are just going to make a simple dish stressful for yourself. That last 30 minutes makes a world of difference, but if you are worried, just give it 45 minutes instead. AS long as the stock is a least half way up the shank and the foil is tightly on, you will not dry out the Osso Bucco.
Remove from oven and serve the veal with the sauce over mounds of mashed potato or rice or pasta. Top the veal with some gremolata to add a hint of freshness to the meal, and pop some steamed greens on the side and maybe some crunchy bread for that extra sauce mop up and dinner is served!
- 6 Veal Shanks (Osso Bucco) (about 1.5 kg)
- flour, for dredging
- Bouquet garni - large sprig of rosemary, 4 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied together
- 1 large brown onion, diced finely
- 1 large carrot, diced finely
- 2 sticks of celery, diced finely
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, sliced (depending on size of clove and taste)
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- olive oil for frying, about 2 tbs
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 170°C.
- Dredge veal shanks in seasoned flour, and shake off any excess. Heat olive oil in a large pan and braise shanks until caramelised. Place on plate or into your large baking dish, and repeat.
- In same pan, add extra oil and cook the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until vegetables soften - about 5 - 8 minutes.
- Place vegetables and bouquet garni over the browned osso bucco, add the wine stock and tomato paste and mix slightly to combine. Cover the baking dish with foil (a double layer will ensure all that goodness stays inside) and pop in the oven for 1½ hours. At this stage the meat should be falling from the bone and tender and the sauce slightly thickened.
- Carefully remove the osso bucco to your serving plate and drizzle with sauce. Serve with mashed potato, rice or pasta and a nice ciabatta to mop up any left over sauce
- Buon Appetito!