After an amazing weekend enjoying the autumn weather, I am back in the kitchen and ready to make some rich dishes. I love Osso Bucco Milanese – it is one of my favorite dishes on a cool autumn evening. Paired with a luxurious saffron risotto, it isn’t always a feast for the eye, but it is one for the tastebuds. When you want to impress, getting great quality veal is a must, but it is expensive (well, all meat is insanely expensive here in Switzerland). So the make the dish a bit more economical, I have switched out the veal for pork. Yes, I still do make it with veal, and there really isn’t a comparison in the Wow-Factor, but using pork makes this a dish for any budget.
This dish is super easy to make, but does take a bit of time. Fortunately, most of the time is spent simmering slowing on the stove-top. Alternatively, I have made this in the slow-cooker, but I have found it not really worth it. In order to get the proper amount of flavor, you still do need to brown everything. The only difference is that you would save the time needed to monitor the dish and turn over the meat. So if you want to put it in the slow cooker, go ahead. Just follow all the steps, switching out step 6 for the slow cooker instead of the pan. Put it on low for at least 6 hours.
One thing you might notice is that there isn’t any tomato in this. Yes, that’s right. As Anna Del Conte says in her Classic Food of Northern Italy book, there isn’t any tomato in a real Osso Bucco Milanese. Why would you add tomatoes to a dish that you pair with the delicate flavors of saffron risotto? Good point!!! Besides, when you actually look at the regional variations of food in Italy, tomatoes do not play much of a role in the northern-most regions. The climate and the geography are simply not conducive for abundant tomato growth. She does point out however, that there are southern recipes for Osso Bucco that do include tomatoes, but they are not served with saffron risotto. In any case, here is my budget-friendly riff on Osso Bucco Milanese.
So on to the cooking!
The first step is get a nice, flavorsome crust going on the meat. The easiest way to do this, and help form a nice base for the sauce, is to lightly flour the pieces of pork and sear them in a wide, shallow pan. I am in love with my Le Creuset pan – it’s big, heavy, and non-stick thanks to the enamel coating. I work in batches on a medium-high heat, browning all over with plenty of space in between. If the pan is too crowded, then the meat will steam and the flour will get soggy instead of forming a crust. The one problem that I do run across when browning pre-floured meat, is that some of the flour will inevitably fall off the meat and burn. I simply wipe out the black bits with a paper towel between batches and add a splash more oil in the pan to compensate for the bits soaked up by the bowl. But be careful not to take away the brown bits though; that’s the yummy part!
After everything is nice and brown, I take the meat out and set it on a soup plate (it helps catch the juices). I toss in the onions, celery stalks, and chopped pancetta. After it begins to brown a bit, I add in the celery leaves, as I find they give a nice, intense flavor that the pork can handle. Add a splash of the wine to help scrape up all the brown bits before going onto the next step. On a side note, if I was actually using veal instead of pork, I would leave out the celery leaves as well as pancetta, to let the delicate veal flavor shine through more.
Then into the pan on top of all the veg, goes the meat in a single layer and I snuggle the marrow bones down in between. These not only enrich the sauce, but quite frankly, slow cooked marrow is one of the most delicious, meaty things every. We always serve this dish with a couple bones on the side and a little spoon for scooping, but if eating marrow directly is not your thing, then scooping it out and dissolving it into the sauce is quite OK too.
Then it’s simple a matter of adding the wine, boiling it down a bit, then adding the broth until it almost covers the meat, but not quite. Put a very heavy lid on top, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours, carefully turning the meat every 20-30 minutes. If you need to, add a splash more broth to the pan to keep the meat moist.
In the meantime, make the gremolada – chop up flat-leaf parsley, garlic and grated lemon peel together. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, sprinkle it on top of the meat to take the edge off. Take the meat out and place on a warm serving platter, and add a couple tablespoons of butter to the remaining sauce (off the heat). The butter will act as a thickener and add bit more gloss and lux to the sauce. Pour it over the meat and serve with saffron risotto.
Faux Osso Bucco
A warm, rich and budget-friendly twist on a classic.
Substitute veal for the pork and leave out the pancetta for the classic version.
-8 thick cuts pork shank
-8 beef marrow (soup) bones
-4 T olive oil
-Flour for dusting
-Salt and freshly ground pepper
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-3 Tbsp finely cubed pancetta
-1 celery stalk, finely chopped, keeping leaves separate from stalk
-240 ml (1 c) dry, Italian white wine
-300 ml (1.25 c) good veal or beef stock
-2 Tbsp unsalted butter
-1 organic lemon, rind finely grated
-1 small clove garlic, minced
-3 Tbsp flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
Directions1) Mix flour seasoned with salt on a dinner plate and toss pork around in the flour, coating evenly. Tap off excess flour. Using a wide, shallow, heavy bottom pan, heat half the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, brown pork all over in the pan. You will need to work in batches.
2) Remove pork, and add the onion, celery stalk, and pancetta. When the pancetta begins to brown lightly, add the celery leaves.
3) Add a small splash of wine to aid in scraping up the bits from the pan.
4) Place pork in a single layer on the veg, nestling the marrow bones in-between for a snug fit.
5) Add the remaining wine and boil down until half gone, then carefully flip over each piece of pork. Add as much broth as needed to almost cover the meat, but not quite.
6) Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down the heat to low. Simmer slowly for 2.5 to 3 hours, carefully turning pork over every 20-30 minutes. If the pork starts to dry, add a little more broth to the pan.
7) In the mean time, make the gremolada by mixing lemon rind, parsley and garlic together in a small bowl. Add a tiny squeeze of the lemon juice for added tang and season with salt and pepper.
8) In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the gremolada to the pork, and cover again.
9) When pork is super-tender, remove to a warmed platter with the bones and turn off the heat. Whisk the butter into the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over the meat and serve with saffron rice and a bold white wine, such as a Tuscan Chardonnay.