Probably the signature dish from Milan, ossobuco is a lovely treatment of braised veal shanks well worth the trouble. Make sure that you have the shank cut into slices no thicker than 1½ inches, for this is the size at which they cook best. Any thicker and the meat ends up either under-cooked or chewy and stringy. This is a dish you want to make sure to give the cooking time it needs - slow and patient cooking is essential.
1 cup onion chopped fine
2/3 cup carrot chopped fine
2/3 cup celery chopped fine
4 tbsp (½ stick) butter
1 tsp garlic chopped fine
2 strips lemon peel with none of the white pith beneath it.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
8 1½-inch-thick slices of veal hind shank, each tied tightly around the middle
Flour, spread on a plate
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup beef or veal stock (preferabley home made)
1½ cups canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice.
½ tsp fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 sprigs of parsley
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Choose a pot with a heavy bottom or of enameled cast iron that can accomodate all the veal shanks in a single layer. Put in the onion, carrot, celery, and butter and turn on the heat to medium. Cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, add the chopped garlic and lemon peel, cook another 2 or 3 minutes until the vegetables soften and wilt, then remove from heat.
- Put the vegetable oil in a skillet and turn on the heat to medium high. Turn the veal shanks in the flour, coating them all over and shaking off the excess flour.
Note: Do not flour the veal, or anything else that needs to be browned, in advance because the flour will become soggy and make it impossible to acheive a crisp surface.
- When the oil is quite hot - it should sizzle when the veal goes in - slip the shanks and brown them deeply all over. Remove them from the skillet using a slotted spoon or spatula, and stand them side by side over the chopped vegetables in the pot.
- Tip the skillet and spoon off all but a little bit of the oil. Add the wine, reduce it by simmering it over medium heat while scraping loose with a wooden spoon the browning residues stuck to the bottom and sides. Pour the skillet juices over the veal in the pot.
- Put the broth in the skillet, bring it to a simmer, and add it to the pot. Also add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, the thyme, the bay leaves, parsely, pepper, and salt. The broth should have come two-thirds of the way up to th top of the shanks. If it does not, add more.
- Bring the liquids in the pot to a simmer, cover the pot tightly, and place it in the lower third of the preheated oven. Cook for about 2 hours or until the meat feels very tender when prodded with a fork and a dense, creamy sauce has formed. Turn and baste the shanks every 20 minutes. If, while the ossobuco is cooking, the liquid in the pot becomes insufficient, add 2 tbsp of water at a time, as needed.
- When the ossobuco is done, transfer it to a warm platter, carefully remove the trussing strings without letting the shanks come apart, pour the asuce in the pot over them, and serve at once. if the pot juices are too thin and watery, place the pot over a burner with high heat, boil down the excess liquid, then pour the reduce juices over the ossobuco on the platter.
If you wish to observe ossobuco tradition strictly, you must add an aromatic mixture called gremolada to the shanks, when they are nearly done. It is optional and simple:
1 tsp grated lemon peel, taking care to avoid white pith
¼ tsp garlic chpped very, very fine
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Combine the ingredients evenly and sprinkle the mixture over the shranks while they are cooking but when they are done, so that the gremolada, add it only when reheating the meat.