Sunday, February 6, 2011

Improvisation - Osso Bucco (Bone with a hole)

It's raining....still. We've been in the low 30's with rain / sleet for days now. I'm not complaining! I happen to like rainy days, and especially compared with the rest of the country, we are very lucky. But hey, that's one of the great things about living in the South.

Anyway, I've been pestering  asking nicely for some veal shanks or meaty veal bones to make some more veal stock. Once you've lived with it, it's difficult to substitute. Besides, Michael Ruhlman, whose books have been my reading list for the past few months, says, " Stock is the first lesson taught in the kitchens of the best cooking schools for a reason. ... Ultimately, well-made stock is the ingredient that definitively separates home cooking from the cooking of a professional". (The Elements of Cooking pg. 3). He goes on to say how fine dining establishments make stock daily, but the home cook hasn't the resources to do that. (No Kidding.) BUT, since it freezes well, there is no good reason a home cook can't have veal stock on hand. Lord knows I do not aspire to be a professional cook but I'd like to be the best home cook I can be (and not just because I thought I was a Leo (arrogant and competitive) most of my life...only to find that I am truly a Cancer).  I don't want my new favorite author Mr. Ruhlman to think less of me in case he ever shows up at my house wanting a meal, so I need veal stock...Pronto!

As is the case with many accomodating people, WSH Jim thinks if 1 is good 5 is probably a lot better. In this case, the last time I asked for veal bones, he brought me ten pounds of lovely bones, but they had no meat on them to speak of. Via The French Laundry recipe I made a lovely veal stock but it uses a huge amount of tomato paste and is ridiculously hard and time consuming. This time I asked for "meaty bones" and here's what he brought:

Isn't that gorgeous? Ten pounds which was what I asked for, of what would you say? Bony Meat? In any case, while veal stock is truly a worthwhile endeavor, I couldn't bring myself to dedicate all ten pounds of this beautiful veal shank to stock. Hence, we are improvising Osso Bucco; and there isn't much better food for a cold rainy day than a slow braised meat.  Usually, Osso Bucco is made from shanks where the bone is 3-4 inches thick. These are cut thinner, but as I said, it's improv!

Start by making a bouquet garni, which is some aromatic herbs wrapped in cheesecloth to flavor the sauce and not incorporate pieces in to it. When it's done just pull the cheesecloth bundle out. This is 1 bay leaf, some rosemary and thyme, 1 clove and few peppercorns.

Next heat some canola oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet until it shimmers. While it's heating, salt and pepper the shanks and dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess.

Put them in the skillet and brown both sides, around 4-5 minutes each.

When that's done remove the shanks to a platter and throw in chopped celery, onion and carrot and cook until translucent, just a few minutes. Then throw in a clove of minced garlic to cook for about 1 minute. longer.

After the veggies have cooked a few minutes, add 2/3 cup of white wine and let it cook down. Remember to remove the skillet from the heat before you do this. In making my most recent pot roast I remembered this rule and chose to ignore it... at my own peril. We almost ended up with Sally Flambe!  Anyway, let the wine cook down and add 2 cups of chicken stock (preferably homemade but low sodium if store bought) also add 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste. I buy the paste in a tube, because I think that's one of the coolest inventions ever... I never use more than a T or 2 of tomato paste and anything left over in the can goes to waste.  Let all this simmer together a few minutes before adding the meat back into the pot - taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Once in, cover and simmer low and slow for about 2 hours. By this time your house will smell heavenly. Check the meat frequently and turn it over as needed. Add chicken stock as needed, liquid should always be a level in which 2/3 of the meat is submerged. When the meat is tender and falling off the bones, remove it from the pan and cut it into bitesized pieces. Meanwhile strain the liquid (or if you are lazy like me just remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon). Let it reduce a bit until flavors are concentrated.

Add the pieces of veal back in the pan for a few minutes to heat through and get married with the new concentrated pan sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Oops missed a carrot I see.

This magical stew is often served on Polenta. Being born and raised in the south, Jim prefers grits, and they are almost the same thing. I cooked up some stone ground grits and added just a touch of extra sharp cheddar cheese. To plate, spoon some grits into a shallow bowl, add the stew and garnish with chopped Italian parsley and a bit of lemon zest.

That's a bowl of goodness right there. The tenderness of the veal and it's delicate flavor are divine. The sauce has a good bit of veal flavor, kicked up by the bouquet garni. I actually liked the grits better than a polenta base for this. This is the first time I've made Osso Bucco, I really liked it. This recipe is a mix of several I found, all had roughly the same ingredients, all used this technique.

I can't post a Veal recipe without adding a note about Veal.  I know a lot of people won't eat veal. I understand that, I used to be one of you. But ask yourself this: Do you eat Lamb? Do you know that the Chicken you eat  lived just a few short weeks?  When I heard John Mackay interviewed once (founder of Whole Foods and a vegan himself) he was asked if he had misgivings about selling meat in his stores. He said he didn't buy the animal death argument, because everything alive will one day die.  It's the treatment of the animals during life and at the end that matters. I've often pondered that eternal paradox: that life requires death. OK too philsophical for a food blog but it's a worthwhile reflection. Bottomline on veal is, if you want to try it. Just buy it from a responsible and humane source. It costs more but to me, it's worth it.

I'll be doing more "other tasty bites" and less French Laundry because quite frankly it became boring. Thomas Keller is a genius, an artist and an inspiration, but I am not Thomas Keller. I'll still post things from Bouchon and Ad Hoc because they are more my style.  I'll be busy making veal stock the next day or two, hopefully I'll find an inspiring recipe to share while it simmers on the stove. OH! and Jim gave me a fancy shmancy skimmer which makes my stock making so much easier!  Thank you Jim!

See you soon.


  1. I hate to tell you this but the naked veal bones ARE what pro kitchens use for their veal stock/demi glace. You start with 75# of VERY roasted veal bones and quite a bit of roasted mirpoix (leave the skins on the onions please, it enhances the color of the stock) and allow the stock to cook for at least 12 hours before removing the stock to allow it to cool so that it can be defatted. The classic kitchens then make what is called a remiage (I cannot spell it, it means second wash) and they allow the bones to contine simmering, sometimes for up to 24 hours before discarding the bones. It's also MUCH cheaper than paying for veal shanks (the bones used to be <$1/# and I know that veal shanks are now over $5/# - that makes some EXPENSIVE stock). That being said, the osso bucco looks fantastic but did you use the marrow from the bones? That's why people use that cut, so that they can dig the fatty marrow out. It's usually scooped out with a special spoon and eaten as is or on toast with a bit of good salt on top. Fatty but delicious.....

  2. Re: Anonymous. Thanks for the informative comment! I made the classic veal stock earlier in the life of the blog. I used the remouillage method from The French Laundry Cookbook. I also made the white veal stock from that cookbook. This time I was trying for something I can actually do on a regular basis, at home, with no kitchen staff. :) I used the recipe in one of Michael Ruhlman's books, and yes, we ate the marrow on toast, with a tiny sprinkle Sel Marin -- oh the joy! Thanks for reading and posting!

  3. oooops, I forgot I already commented on it. Sorry! I was the one from above!