Osso Buco

Like I mentioned in yesterday's risotto Milanese post, I recreated a meal we had in Milano at El Brellin a couple of weekends ago. Luckily for me, my grocery store sells beef shanks so this was an easy enough dish to assemble, especially because the rest of the ingredients are pretty easy to find. Classic osso buco is made with veal but I am not a fan of veal; it tastes great but the thought of eating baby cows depresses me.

The best part of making osso buco is that it takes just a few minutes of prep work and labor and then the rest of the time is just simmering it on the stove for a couple of hours, allowing the stove to do the work for you and letting the meat get super delicious and tender.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
osso buco
2 lbs. beef shanks
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups white wine
3 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
10 sprigs parsley

¼ cup parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Start by generously seasoning the beef with salt and pepper. I use really coarse sea salt (as you can see by the giant cube-like shards of salt in the photo below) and coarse ground pepper.
Dredge the shanks in flour, shaking off all the excess.
Grab your favorite heavy-bottomed pot (I love my French oven) and drizzle in a good glug of olive oil and turn the heat up to medium. When the pan is good and hot, nestle in one or two beef shanks (whatever fits in the pot without feeling too crowded). Sear the shanks for about 4 minutes on each side until the meat is golden brown with crisp edges. Remove the shanks from the pot and set aside.
To take advantage of the lovely brown bits left in the pan, just dump the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic (which you should have chopped up whilst the meat was browning) and swirl them around in the pan. Once the vegetables are soft, stir in some tomato paste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Let the veggies cook in the tomato paste for about two minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugars in the tomato paste don't burn.
Deglaze with white wine and beef stock. Stir to scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pot and then drop in all of the herbs. Nestle the meat back into the pot and then allow the liquids to come to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and then pop a lid on the pot. Leave to cook slowly for about 2 hours or until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
Remove the herbs and the meat from the pot. Set aside the meat and discard the herbs.
Crank the heat under the pot and allow the stock to boil furiously and reduce by half to create a lush, thick sauce.
Once the sauce has been reduced, tuck the meat back into the pot to allow it to warm back up.
Meanwhile, make gremolata. Gremolata is just chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon which is so simple but makes the best garnish and adds an explosion of flavor to the osso buco. It's the traditional herb embellishment for osso buco and rightly so; it complements the rich flavors of the stew really nicely.
Chop up parsley, grate in some garlic, and zest a lemon and then furiously chop them together to combine.
To serve, plate up a generous helping of risotto milanese (or just plain risotto or even just fluffy rice pilaf) and then nestle on a beef shank alongside. Drizzle a little extra sauce on top of the shank and on top of the risotto and then sprinkle some gremolata on top of the meat. Serve immediately!
The warmth of the osso buco immediately releases the essential oils from the gremolata and you will be hit with the most amazing smell of lemon and warm garlic.
To add a little extra freshness and greenery to the table, we also had some buttery haricots verts and a big green salad (which is just out of frame). And, because this was such a special meal, we poured ourselves some sparkling Moscato and cheers-ed to an Italian epicurean feast.
The osso buco is so tender that you don't really need a knife; the knife is just decorative and will only be there out of table setting habit. It's rich and full of flavor (thanks to the wine and long term simmering process) and it tastes so comforting and homey. It's honestly a perfect meal for the cooler autumn days and I see myself making this over and over again this winter. This dinner is definitely going on the books as a super memorable and successful one.
Here's the recipe page: