Osso Bucco (Braised Veal Shank)

DSCF6932 (640x456)It’s the coldest week of the year in the city and it’s also the best time to be outside; shopping. Almost stores are nearly empty with rushing shoppers and moving in and around aisles can be such a relief. Same goes for restaurants where queues never end, and for a long time, a relative peace and quiet in a relatively buzzing and unrelentless place. It’s only during this season I can truly cherish the food I love to eat without the tendency of eavesdropping at the conversation over at the next table.

It’s actually during the fall and winter seasons that I clean-up my storage and apartment and see what can be thrown away or donated.  This year, however, is a major overhaul. I went through my piles of stuff from almost six years back and it was an enormous junk pile. As I look at each, I see many were bought while I moved in from one location to another when work required me to or I had to move to another residence for a change.  All of them were gathered along the way. Some were gifts, and others were from my previous past life that mothballed in time. I was lucky enough to find someone who found real and potential use for all those. It was, in my part, a big sigh of relief and comfort. I suddenly saw so much space from my little haven and knew  what I have and what I really badly need to keep myself clutter-free. Removing clutter is one way of moving forward, and I’m all in for that.

It’s also during the winter months that I focus my cooking on heavy broth based dishes. I particularly love to work on the beef or the veal shank and the pork butt to create traditional dishes with my own twist. This particular dish, though, is one of my favourites.  I made a very traditional Osso Bucco the first time using white wine. This is another version; a more updated version using tomato puree.  It has the same cooking procedure as the Osso Bucco alla Milanese except for the tomato puree or sauce and the gremolata which I omitted upon serving. I concentrated on bringing out the life of the veal shank itself and creating a heavy and smooth sauce from it. Those two were enough to warm me up during cold, below freezing days and nights.

Ingredients:

  • Veal Shank
  • Olive oil
  • Shallot, minced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Thyme or Rosemary
  • Bayleaf
  • Tomato Puree or sauce
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Beef Stock
  • Red Wine
  • Flour (for coating)

Season the shank with salt and pepper and coat with flour.  Pan-fry both sides until golden brown and set aside.

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Sauté the shallots and garlic until aromatic using the same pan. Deglaze with the red wine, add-in the tomato puree followed by the balsamic vinegar, bayleaf, thyme, sea salt and beef stock. Return the shank back into the pot and let it boil to simmer until the shank becomes fork tender.

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Carefully lift the shank from the pot and set it on a plate. Strain the sauce into a sauce pan and adjust the consistency and seasonings. Drizzle the sauce over the shank and garnish with Thyme or Rosemary or in my case, chopped green onion.

The usual mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions can replace the garlic and shallots. Again, this mirepoix is common and basic in this side of the world and for the same reason, I would rather use something simpler to adjust to my taste and limited time.

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Osso Bucco alla Milanese

Working in the kitchen means doing one-million things all at the same time. And all that hardwork will vanish in a span of just about an hour of service; in my case, in just about twenty minutes. Afterwards, expect another surge of grueling and agonizing prep work; doing the same process again and timing everything  for another round of sweltering match.

The kitchen is a brotherhood of hardworking souls whereby the forthcoming menu is executed through questions; ‘how’s this?’, and ‘what’s next?, and in many cases, where? if a certain ingredient is unavailable or is lost in translation while an already barrage of pots are already churning on the stovetop and are seeking immediate attention and care. Substitutions are almost always welcomed. Managing time and ingredients combined with kitchen’s limited resources is where the skill of the cook comes in play, and it’s truly a crazy balancing act; hoping even that the oven won’t die down on you.  A bottle of beer does help calm the nerves down after such brutal beating and that could be the best part of the day for anyone doing several thousand things, and all done under the gun.

When I reach home after encountering a miserable day as such, I look for a meal that’s very, very sedating. I search for something which I didn’t touch nor tasted in the professional kitchen where I was bludgeoned and as much as possible, very easy to prepare. A very delicately prepared sandwich works, but most often, I look for either a typical meat and rice partnership or just plain pasta. In some cases, I prepare breakfast for dinner which I think I will eventually do very soon.

The only way to prepare meat and satisfy my tired and worn out soul is to prepare days ahead; in my own turf. This has worked wonders for me; marinating meat days ahead or defrosting a particular cut several days before cooking. Just lately, I have been searching for a shank appropriate for an Osso Bucco. I could have bought a readily available beef shank, however, I had an appetite for veal, and when it was on the supermarket shelf, I took one and gave the Osso Bucco a test. It does not appear as regularly as the other beef or pork cuts. Moreover, I haven’t really cooked an Osso Bucco and after seeing several recipes on-line, I had an urge to give it a try. I just couldn’t resist.

This is an Osso Bucco alla Milanese in White Wine; a more traditional approach to the more modern one where crushed tomatoes are an integral part of the recipe. This is a simpler recipe with a natural intention of bringing forth the essence of the Shank itself.  I made a simple Gremolata to finish and top it off and had added roasted green bell pepper and shallots as garnishes. I discarded the pine nuts in the Gremolata, and instead made it more tangy and garlicky (Pinoy essence).

Ingredients:

  • Veal Shank
  • Spanish Onions, minced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Bayleaves
  • Italian Herbs/Seasoning
  • Pepperoncino
  • Cinnamon
  • White wine
  • Chicken Stock (or a demi)
  • Green Bell Pepper, roasted & diced

Gremolata:

  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Parsley, finely minced
  • Garlic, Roasted and minced to a paste
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lemon Rind, finely minced

Season the shank and coat with flour.   Brown the shank in both sides and set aside.

Saute the onion, garlic, herbs, bayleaves and pepperoncino using the same pan. Add the wine, chicken stock and cinnamon and stir constantly. Return the shank back into the pan, cover and shove everything in a preheated 300’C oven (low & slow).

Combine all the ingredients for the Gremolata using a mortar & pestle or in my case, mince everything using a knife.

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