I've made osso buco, an Italian dish of braised veal shanks, several times. I've eaten it in fine Italian restaurants but I've never really liked it until now.
This is a great recipe that my father pulled from the web a few years ago, which uses pancetta, instead of olive oil, for the browning of the veal and cooking the vegetables.
Olive oil is the traditional method, so if you want to skip the pancetta, just substitute several tablespoons of olive oil.
But the pancetta adds a lovely flavor dimension, and is probably the secret ingredient that has me liking osso buco for the first time. So use it if you can.
"Osso Buco" means "hole of bone" because this marrow provides the rich flavor to the sauce. A marrow spoon, one of those long skinny spoons found in old sterling silverware sets, would come in handy with this dish, as the succulent shank marrow can be tricky to extract (I used the skinny end of a teaspoon).
The gremolata (parsley, lemon zest and garlic) is an important garnish for this dish, don't skip.
- 1/4 pound pancetta, diced 1/4 inch cubes (do not substitute bacon)
- 2-1/2 to 3 pounds veal shanks (4 to 6 pieces 2-3 inches thick)
- 1/2 cup diced carrot (1/4 inch cubes)
- 1/2 cup diced celery (1/4 inch cubes)
- 1 medium onion, diced 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons (about 4 cloves) chopped garlic
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1-2 cups chicken or veal stock
- Flour for dusting the meat before browning
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced flat (Italian) parsley
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Brown the pancetta:
Heat a dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat for about five minutes. Add pancetta to pan, cook, stirring occasionally.
When the pancetta is crispy and most of the fat has rendered (about 5 minutes of cooking), remove the pancetta to a plate covered with some paper towel and set aside.
If necessary, drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
Dredge shanks in flour, brown in pan:
Season the veal shank well with salt and pepper. Dredge the veal shanks through some flour, shake off any excess, and add the meat to the hot fat in the pan.
Increase the heat to medium high and cook the meat on each side until well browned (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the shanks to a plate, set aside.
Sauté onions, carrots, celery:
Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the dutch oven. Cook the onion mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent (about five minutes) and toss in the garlic and thyme.
Continue cooking until the vegetables just begin to brown (about 10 minutes).
Return shanks to pan, add wine and stock:
Add the shanks and the pancetta back to the pan. Pour in the wine, and then add enough stock to come a little more than half way up the side of the shanks.
Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and put it in the oven to cook until the meat is tender, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Combine the gremolata ingredients, place in a separate small serving dish.
Serve on top of risotto or polenta. Sprinkle with gremolata.