Monday, November 21, 2011

Recipe: Osso Bucco, Old yet New...

Heaven sends us good meat, but the Devil sends cooks. – David Garrick 

Old and new together.
I’m not really one to have massive upset about how my food is harvested, but a few things do actually bother me.

For example, I try (and need to try harder) to support local producers as opposed to the big chains whenever I can. I admit it’s far less often that I should. I do try to buy locally from the big grocers when I can, for what it’s worth.

Photo: zayzayem, Flickr ccl
The other two are  1) bunnies, and  2) veal. Bunnies are a no brainer. They’re way too cute, but at least they are often hunted in the wild. We supplemented our food with rabbits in the winter months when I was young because it helped my parents’ stretch their modest income.

I feel the same sort of way about veal, but they’re not raised wild, or even free range. They’re raised penned and slaughtered young. I used to eat veal, but can’t really bring myself to do it anymore. It’s cruel.

Veal is a “by-product” of the milk industry. Cows must have calves to lactate, but the calves don’t get to drink the milk very long. We do. “Milk-fed” veal calves are given a milk replacement rather than the more valuable saleable milk. Since male cattle do not give milk they are usually the ones that end up on the plate.

I actually had to stop watching the movie Food.Inc a few month’s ago – for a variety of reasons. I didn’t make it past the chicken farming. It was turning me completely off my dinner. Vegetarianism was looking better and better.

Brown the shanks well.
Now here’s a problem: Osso Bucco is traditionally made from veal shanks. In reality “osso bucco” means "bone with a hole" in Italian, so any old cut bone would fit the definition. But Osso Bucco uses veal shanks.

Well not in my kitchen. It’s beef shanks. The thing about the recipe is that it’s a slow cooked meat dish that allows the flavour from the bone and marrow to ooze out into the sauce. In the process the meat becomes unbelievably tender. It literally cooks off the bone.

So what’s old yet new, you may ask. Osso Bucco has been around since the 1800s. The original (veal was cheap and plentiful) was spiced with cinnamon and bay leaf. The sauce consisted of broth and reduced vegetables. It was Ossobucco in bianco, or white Osso Bucco. A modern version uses tomatoes.

Of course mine uses both techniques. Oh, and the sad little calves have at least had a chance to mature fully before being marched off to the abattoir. Terrible word, that. Has anyone seen the Monty Python sketch where the abattoir architect tries to sell the concept as an apartment building? It’s twisted.

Regardless, this is one of the tastiest dishes I make. I think I’m a passable cook, but the rating is based on the opinion of others. So it must be at least edible.

This recipe isn’t a quickie. It takes about 2-1/4 hours to achieve that desirable tenderness, but it’s well worth it. Traditional side dishes are mashed potatoes for the new version or Risotto alla milanese (onion, saffron, white wine) for the old. Take your pick.

As I write this the Osso Bucco has been on the stove for nearly one hour. The smell of garlic, cinnamon and cloves is rising behind me and filling the kitchen. Mmmmm….

Docaitta’s Osso Bucco
Prep: 10 min  | Cook: 2 hrs 45 min  |  Serves 4
Nestle the shanks in the sauce.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 beef shanks, bone in (a little over 1 lb each)
salt and cracked black pepper
2 medium onions
2 bay leaves
2” cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup red wine
28 oz whole canned tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Sprinkle the shanks with salt and pepper. Brown each one in the hot oil until the bottoms release from the pan. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions and spices to the oil. Sauté until the onions just begin to soften. Then add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. 

After the sauce is nearly reduced.
Add the tomatoes and red wine. Break the tomatoes up slightly. They will finish breaking down in the braising. Bring the sauce to a boil.

Nestle the shanks into the sauce. Add a little more salt and pepper. be careful as the salt will concentrate as the sauce reduces. 

Cover the pot (leaving it slightly open), reduce the heat to simmer, and let braise for about 2 hours. Turn the shanks in the sauce periodically.

After 2 hours the sauce will still be quite liquid. Remove the cover and allow to cook for the remaining half hour to reduce. Keep check so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. The meat can also be taken from the bone with a spatula during this cooking time as well. The sauce will become quite thick.

Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Serve with fluffy masked potatoes or risotto.


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