I am aware that this post is rather similar to the previous one, I have clearly got a meaty, tomatoey, robust, braise phase going on – what can I say it’s February which thuds in at #12 on my favorite month chart and it’s rather chilly. A braise bubbling happily on or in the oven is just what my cold cockles are in dire need of.
In Italian Osso means bone and buco means hole.
Ossobuco is quite literally a bone with a hole.
Well almost. The bone with the hole I am talking about is cut in thick rounds from a knuckle of veal (veal shanks) so surrounding it is a circle of tender flesh which if you look closely is individual nuggets of flesh cunningly encased in a network of fibres and soft connective tissue.
I am going to be bold and say that veal ossobuco is without a doubt my favorite meat to braise and maybe just maybe my favorite to eat.
I first ate ossobuco in Milan in a restaurant I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. I do however remember the meal, vividly, a meal which has stayed with me years after the last delicious forkful. The ossobuco I ate that night was alla milanese, cooked with butter, white wine and aromatics, served with a gremolada of garlic, lemon peel and parsley and accompanied by a fine, delicate, saffron coloured and flavoured risotto alla milanese. It left me with a gastronomic sense memory which still burns brightly.
This recipe is not strictly speaking ossobuco alla milanese as it contains a hearty proportion of tomatoes which the lombardia classic does not. If I was planning the full monty of ossobucco, risotto and gremolada I would forgo the tomatoes feeling they were overpowering in the presence of the other distinct flavours but considering I am aiming for a more solitary plateful I have included them. This a fine fine recipe and yields a plate of ossobuco which more than placates the yearnings of my sense memory.
The recipe goes something like this, after a good, lively browning the ossobuco is subjected to a long, slow, patient simmer with a carefully executed soffritto, a generous glug of white wine, some fine plum tomatoes and plenty of flavoursome aromatics during which it is transformed into a meltingly tender and full flavoured delight with a thick creamy sauce. And to top it all a most delicious treat awaits you inside the bone, ready to be scooped or sucked out – a pool of soft, rich and indulgent bone marrow.
A few thoughts
It goes without saying some top notch veal ossobuco is in order here, you will most probably have to order it. Any butcher worth his salt will cut it to size for you while you wait and admire his artful touch with the electric saw required for these bony chaps – my butcher is such a dab hand with knifes and saws it is provoking a most childish of crushes and uncontrollable blushing on my part.
Each ossobuco requires an attentive and patient browning before you unite it with the equally attentively made soffritto of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery.
Fresh aromatics (except bay) are pretty essential – dried, bottled ones are all a bit musty, I would rather do without.
The strips of lemon peel are vital.
I don’t worry about tying string around the circumference of each ossobuco to hold them together and they have held their shape well enough.
I add a little water as opposed to veal stock, I think the end result is rich enough and would rather save my stock for something else- you may disagree.
This is cooking for a lazy day, rushing is not really an option, there is nothing complicated about the recipe but it all needs quiet thoughtful execution as you build up the rich layers of flavour.
This recipe will be very happily made one or two days in advance - it can be gently reheated over a gentle flame.
We ate for dinner last night with creamy mashed potatoes which was very very good but I have to admit the final plateful was even better at lunchtime today after a night of mellowing and wallowing in all those sublime juices. At about 1 30 today while Vincenzo – who does not partake of meat had ALL the leftover mash as fried potato cakes with a fried egg on top – I ate the final slice with some very good bread to mop up the sauce and scoop out the marrow bone, a big green salad finished a very indulgent Monday lunch very nicely indeed.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essensials of classic Italian cooking.
- 1 large white onion peeled and finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 50g butter
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 2 strips of lemon peel with no white pith
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 ossobuco steaks (each about 1.5″ thick)
- flour for dusting the ossobuco
- 250ml dry White wine
- 100ml water or veal stock
- 400g good tinned plum tomatoes roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- sprig of fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set the oven to 180°C/ 350°f
In a very large heavy based pan big enough to accommodate the ossobuco in a single layer melt the butter over a gentle flame and add the onion, carrot and celery. Raise the heat a little and saute the vegetables for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and lemon peel and cook gently for another couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large frying pan warm your vegetable oil over a lively flame. Dip the ossobuco in the flour on a plate, coat each slice and shake to remove excess flour.
Once the oil is really quite hot, fry the ossobuco slices first on one side, then the other until they are golden brown, in batches if necessary. Once they are done use a slotted spoon to lift them out of the frying pan and place them on top of the vegetables in your big pan.
Carefully spoon off most of the vegetable oil from the frying pan leaving just a little oil and all the meaty residue. Over a good flame add the wine to the frying pan and while it sizzles de-glaze the pan – scape away the meaty residue stuck to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and then tip everything over the meat and vegetables in the big pan.
Add the tomatoes, stock or water, thyme, bay, parsely, salt and freshly ground black pepper to the pan.
Bring the pan to a gentle but lively simmer, cover it tightly and then put it in the oven for 2 hours. turning the ossobuco every 30 minutes and adding a little more water if necessary.