I made this dish the other evening to pair with a big Italian cabernet, it’s braised osso bucco with roasted garlic polenta and honey glazed root vegetables. It was served with a reduction of the braising liquid and gremolata.
Osso Bucco is an Italian favorite, literally meaing “Bone with a hole”. This would of course be a reference to the huge bone protruding from it. Osso Bucco is a dish that orginated in the 19th Century in Milan, it is a braised cross-cut of veal shank, usually taken from the upper thigh because of the higher meat-to-bone ratio.
Veal shank is an extremely flavorful cut, but the toughness of the meat requires braising. Since the shank is part of the leg the muscle is constantly worked, as opposed to a muscle like tenderloin which is never worked and is very tender.
Braising is hands-down my favorite method of cookery due to the number of steps required. The more steps, the more opportunity to introduce flavor and the better a product can become if handled properly.
First, the veal shanks were seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, then lightly dusted with all purpose flour with a little onion powder and granulated garlic. The shanks were seared until lightly browned, then removed from the pan. Then, medium diced onion, celery and carrots were added to the pan and cooked until caramelized. Tomato paste was added and cooked down until almost dry, then the pan was deglazed with red wine. Once the wine had cooked down to almost sec, chicken stock and veal stock were added in equal parts, along with fresh rosemary, thyme and crushed garlic. While waiting for the wine to cook down, butchers twine was tied very tightly around the shanks to help them keep their shape during the cooking process. The veal shanks were then placed back into the pan, into the stock, and allowed to just come to a boil. Once it had boiled very briefly, the pan was covered and placed into a 350 degree oven for five hours.
When they come out of the oven, what you should look for is the tightness of the bone. They should be cooked just until the bone becomes loose, when the collagen has fully broken down. Over cooking can result in an unpalatable consistency, under cooking will result in a seriously jaw-strengthening dinner. Just check the bone, and you can check the tenderness of the meat with a skewer as well just to make sure it’s done.
Once the shanks are out of the liquid, the braising liquid should be strained, reduced, skimmed, seasoned and thickened if necessary. The braising liquid is fortified by the braised shank and the end result is like liquid gold.
All of that made this dish very good, but what made it great was the addition of the gremolata. Gremolata is simply a mixture of parsley, chopped garlic (blanched), lemon zest, orange zest, and salad oil. The acidity cuts through the richness of the osso bucco, and the orange really makes the whole flavor profile come to life.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have eaten a lot of great food…this was top ten material.