Friday, June 13, 2008

Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese

Osso Buco
I finally made osso buco with the veal shanks I bought from Pike Place two months ago. Luckily, the shanks weren't freezer burned *whew* because they weren't cheap and were pretty difficult to find too. My local grocery stores didn't carry shanks thick enough to even tie a piece of twine around. What the heck are you suppose to do with a shank that's barely a 1/2 inch thick? I called around and found that Don and Joe's Meats in Pike Place carries appropriately-thick veal shanks, at $12.90/lb for frozen ones (slightly more for freshly butchered). At nearly $10 a serving, I would normally skip making a dish like this or use a cheaper alternative like lamb shanks but proper osso buco was on The List so I splurged and bought two whole servings! Cuz yeah, I'm such a high roller. I followed Marcella Hazan's recipes for both the osso buco and the traditional accompaniment risotto milanese (saffron risotto). The full recipe called for 6 - 8 shanks and when I thought about it, if you were making 8 servings of osso buco, the contents in the Dutch oven would be close to $100. *faints* Thankfully, both the osso buco and risotto turned out delicious. Worth the cost? Yes, but it's definitely not something I would make regularly.

Osso buco literally translates to "bone hole" and was most likely named after the marrow. This luscious meat butter is the highlight of this dish. You could use a marrow spoon (though I don't know of anyone who actually owns marrow spoons) or a butter knife to scoop it out or you can just shamelessly suck that baby out. Mmm mm! The surrounding veal was soft and tender, meaty but not beefy. I know some people have ethical objections to veal but there are sources for humanely-raised veal or feel free to use beef or lamb shanks.

This was also my first time cooking with saffron and honestly, I'm a little disappointed. Was I suppose to have a culinary epiphany where from the moment that risotto hit my tongue, I would understand why it's the world's most expensive and prized spice. I mean people pick the stamens by hand for crying out loud. What the heck is saffron suppose to taste like? I don't think I screwed up the risotto that badly because it was still the most delicious risotto I've ever made. I know my saffron (from Trader Joe's) isn't the best quality but I smelled it and it smelled... well, it smelled weird, nothing mind-blowing like the first time I smelled a real vanilla bean. As for the taste? How would you describe it? Because I haven't a clue. Could it be that I just didn't use enough? Some recipes called for just 3 or 4 threads but I used at least 6 to 10..

Hmm... I dunno. But anyway, onto the recipe.

Osso Buco
Adapted from Marcella Hazan (Below is the full recipe with minor changes, I scaled the recipe down to roughly 1/3 since I was only cooking 2 shanks)

6 - 8 veal shanks
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 Tbsp butter
1 C diced onion
2/3 C diced carrot
2/3 C diced celery
1 C dry white wine
2 strips lemon zest
1 C chicken stock
1 1/2 C tomatoes in juices
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh
2 bay leaves
3 - 4 parsley sprigs

1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced Italian parsley

Some notes from Marcella Hazan:
- Veal shanks are best no thicker than 1 1/2 inches, otherwise they will not cook evenly.
- Do not remove the white skin/membrane around shank, it adds flavor and creaminess to the dish
- Give yourself enough time to allow the osso buco to cook slowly and gently. It's not something you can rush.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Tie each shank tightly with a piece of twine to prevent them from falling apart during cooking.

Flour both sides of the veal shank and pat off the excess. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Sear the shanks on both sides until a brown crust forms, remove to a plate and set aside.

Turn down the heat to medium and add 4 tablespoons of butter to the Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the vegetables have softened. Add the wine and cook until it no longer smells alcoholic. Nestle the shanks back into the
vegetables. Add the lemon zest, chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Bring the contents to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven.

Let it cook in the oven for about 2 - 3 hours or until the shanks are fork tender. Baste the shanks by spooning the cooking liquid over them every 20 - 30 minutes. If the pot is getting too dry, add a few tablespoons of water.

Optional step (it wasn't in the cookbook but this is what I did): After the shanks are done, carefully remove them from the pot and set aside on a plate. Puree the contents in the pot (the veggies and braising liquid) in a blender/food processor/immersion blender for a more uniform sauce.

Serve the osso buco over risotto milanese or polenta. Carefully snip the twine around the shank and spoon the sauce over it. Top with a spoonful of the gremolada (which I skipped in the picture).

Risotto Milanese
Adapted from Marcella Hazan

1 Tbsp olive oil (I used bacon fat)
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 medium onion, finely diced
1 C Arborio or Carnaroli rice
A small pinch of saffron threads (I used about 6 - 10?)
1/4 C hot water
1/4 C dry white wine
2 - 3 C chicken stock
1 Tbsp cold butter
1/3 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano

- Do not rinse the rice, the starches on the outside of the grains is what makes the risotto creamy.
- The chicken stock must be hot when you add it to the rice, so keep it in a saucepan on low heat on the stove while you're cooking.
- Add the saffron threads to the hot water and let it infuse.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the rice and cook until the rice is coated with fat and starts to turn translucent around the edges.

Lower the heat to medium low, add the wine and cook while stirring until
the wine has been absorbed.

Add one cup of the chicken stock, keeping it at a simmer, and cook uncovered while stirring constantly until almost all of the liquid as absorbed. After this point add the chicken stock about 1/3 cup at a time. Keep it at a low simmer, and cook the rice while stirring constantly.

About 15 minutes in, after the chicken stock has been absorbed, add the saffron
water (threads too) and continue to cook and stir. If you start running low on
chicken stock, go ahead and use hot water.

Continue adding ladlefuls of broth, waiting until each addition has been almost absorbed before adding the next, cook while constantly stirring until the rice has is al dente, fully cooked but still retains a chew in the center.

Take off heat and stir in a tablespoon of cold butter and grated Parmigiano.

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