Month: February 2015

Osso Buco Variations

Not too long ago I was asked to share some perspective and instructions about Osso Buco, so I thought I would expand upon what I initially wrote and share it with you all.

So you want to make Osso Buco to “test drive” that new braising pot of yours? Well here you go. There are as many interpretations of this dish as there are cooks to prepare it. However, you can start with the classic veal preparation from Milan, oss bus (“bone with a hole”), and then you can explore several variations on the theme to expand your perspective.

Before we begin, I would point out two other essentials to improve your enjoyment of the finished dish. Aside from that new pot of yours, you should have or purchase a set of espresso-size spoons (or small forks) to scoop out the cooked marrow from the center of the shank bones. You should also make use of the condiment gremolata when serving the final dish.

Gremolata is mainly used by the osso buco purists. In its simplest form it consists of the zest of one lemon, a finely diced garlic clove, and finely chopped parsley. However, you could substitute toasted pine nuts for the garlic, and/or toasted pistachio or hazel nuts for the pine nuts.

Orange zest has been substituted for the lemon, and even shaved fresh horseradish can be used. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

The best time to introduce the gremolata is when you serve, so the heat of the dish releases the flavor of the mixed condiment and melds it into each serving.

Since the classic osso buco is made from veal shanks, let’s begin there.

  • Purchase the meatier calf’s hind shank, cut no thicker than 1-1/2 to 2 inches because it is the size that cooks best. That size should be what remains after the butcher saws off both ends of the hind shank bone.
  • Make sure the butcher doesn’t remove the skin surrounding the shank. It acts to keep the meat together during braising, adding a creamy consistency and contributes to the flavor.
  • Set aside enough time to braise the dish properly, as long slow cooking will yield the best texture and juiciness to the finished dish.
  • A word about dusting with flour. The flour will bind with the cooking oil and rendered fat to make a more substantial broth and the eventual sauce.

 

Veal Osso Buco

8 servings, recipe can be halved

Ingredients
8 veal hind shanks prepared as described above, approximately 10 to 12 oz each
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 medium carrot chopped fine
1 large celery stalk chopped fine
1 to 2 fennel stalks chopped fine
4 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 garlic cloves chopped fine
2 strips of lemon peel (no white pith)
All-purpose flour for dusting the shanks
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup stock (your choice) or water
2 cups imported chopped plum tomatoes with the juice
2 to 3 thyme sprigs
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Mise en place: Prep all the ingredients ahead of time so they’re ready to assemble and cook.

Method
Using kitchen string, tie the shanks around the center to ensure they don’t fall apart during the braise.

Heat olive oil in the braising pot, medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Lightly flour the shanks, shake off the excess, and brown them well in two batches. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the butter to the pot and add the finely chopped vegetables to sauté as the soffritto base for the braise. You can make the soffritto light, medium, or dark depending on your preference for flavor. Stir continually so as not to burn the vegetable mix.

Once you reach the color you are looking for, add the wine and stir to deglaze the pot, loosening all the brown bits stuck to the bottom from browning the shanks. Slowly bring to a boil.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the shanks back into the pot, along with the stock, tomato and juice, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. The liquid should not cover the shanks but be about 2/3 up. If not, add a little more, wine, stock, or water.

Bring the pot to a simmer, cover tightly, and put into the preheated oven, cooking for up to 3 hours or until the veal is meltingly fork tender. Baste every 20 to 25 minutes.

When the cooking is done, remove the pot from the oven. Arrange the shanks on a warm platter, scatter the gremolata over, and tent to keep warm. Put the pot back on the stove. Remove the thyme and bay leaves and simmer the sauce to reduce and thicken, tasting for seasoning. If any juices gather under the shanks, add back to the sauce in the pot.

Once the sauce reaches a reduced consistency, place one shank per plate and pour the sauce over, serving immediately. These shanks can be served over risotto infused with saffron (which is traditional), mashed potatoes, garlic smashed potatoes, polenta (many options), or even some pasta shapes (again, all a matter of personal taste).

The next three takes on the osso buco style will incorporate many of the steps described above. Since the meats are very different from the traditional veal shank, that is lamb, venison, and/or wild boar, some of the spicing and accompaniments will be different.

All of these braised dishes can be served immediately once the level of tenderness of the meat is reached. For even better flavor, allow the meat to cool in the braising liquid and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator the next day and skim off the excess fat which has solidified. Allow the roasting pot to return to room temperature, remove the shanks and proceed to the step where the braising liquid is reduced to make the sauce. While the sauce is reducing, the shanks can be tented and warmed in the oven, or alternately placed under the broiler for a few minutes until they heat and sizzle.

 

Lamb Shanks, Osso Buco-Style

8 servings, recipe can be halved

Ingredients
8 lamb shanks, fat trimmed, approximately 1 lb each
12 garlic cloves chopped fine
4 medium onions chopped fine
4 medium carrots chopped fine
2 large celery ribs chopped fine
2 to 3 fennel stalks chopped fine
All-purpose flour for dusting the shanks
1 bottle of dry red wine (750 ml)
1 26-oz can crushed plum tomatoes
2 to 2-1/2 cups stock or water
3 long strips of orange zest
2 sprigs fresh oregano
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 to 4 sprigs fresh parsley

Mise en place: Prep all the ingredients ahead of time so they’re ready to assemble and cook.

Method
Using kitchen string, tie the shanks around the center to ensure they don’t fall apart during the braise.

In the large ovenproof pot, add a little olive oil over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Lightly flour the shanks, shake off the excess, and brown them well 2 or 4 at a time so as not to crowd them. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm, while browning the remaining shanks.

In the same pot, over moderate heat, add some additional olive oil and then add the finely chopped vegetables to sauté as the soffritto base for the braise. You can make the soffritto light, medium, or dark depending on your preference for flavor. Stir continually so as not to burn the vegetable mix.

Once you reach the color you are looking for, add the whole bottle of wine and stir to deglaze the pot, loosening all the brown bits stuck to the bottom from browning the shanks. Slowly bring to a boil.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the lamb shanks back to the pot. Alternately, if too crowded, transfer half the shanks to another deep roasting pan and pour half the soffritto/wine base over. Next, add the tomatoes, stock, or water, and the herb/orange zest bundle either tied together or wrapped in the green top of a leek and tied. Return to the slow boil, cover, and place in the oven to braise for 3 hours or until the shanks are meltingly fork tender.

Carefully remove the cooked shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pot or roasting pan to the stove, remove the herb/orange zest bundle, and slowly bring the sauce to a boil to allow some skimming of the excess fat and to thicken.

Once the sauce reaches the reduced consistency, place one shank per plate and pour the sauce over, sprinkle with the gremolata or chopped parsley, and serve. These shanks can be served over mashed potatoes, or other mashed root vegetables, polenta (many options), or egg noodles.

 

Venison Shanks, Osso Buco-Style

8 servings, recipe can be halved

Ingredients
8 venison shanks, approx 2 inches/10 oz each
5 to 6 oz smoked bacon
4 garlic cloves chopped fine
2 medium red onions chopped fine
2 medium carrots chopped fine
2 small parsnips chopped fine
2 medium celery ribs chopped fine
2 to 3 fennel stalks chopped fine
All-purpose flour for dusting the shanks
1 cup of dry red wine
6 crushed plum tomatoes
2 cups stock or water
Juice and zest from 1 large orange
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
10 juniper berries
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Mise en place: Prep all the ingredients ahead of time so they’re ready to assemble and cook.

Method
Using kitchen string, tie the shanks around the center to ensure they don’t fall apart during the braise.

In the large ovenproof pot add a little olive oil over medium heat and sauté the bacon until all the fat is rendered and the bacon is brown and crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.

Lightly flour and salt and pepper the shanks, then lightly brown them 2 or 4 at a time so as not to crowd them. Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm, while browning the remaining shanks.

In the same pot, over medium heat, add some additional olive oil and then add the finely chopped vegetables to sauté as the soffritto base for the braise. You can make the soffritto light, medium, or dark depending upon your preference for flavor. Stir continually so as not to burn the vegetable mix.

Once you reach the color you are looking for, add the cup of wine and stir to deglaze the pot, loosening all the brown bits stuck to the bottom from browning the shanks. Slowly bring to a boil.

Add the venison shanks back to the pot. Next, add the tomatoes, stock or water, orange juice, and the herb/orange zest bundle wrapped in the green top of a leek or cheesecloth and tied. Return to the simmer, cover, and cook on the stove for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the shanks are meltingly fork tender. Baste a few times during the cooking.

Carefully remove the cooked shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pot to the stove, remove the herb/orange zest bundle, and slowly bring the sauce to a boil to reduce.

Once the sauce reaches the reduced consistency, place one shank per plate and pour the sauce over, sprinkle with some gremolata or some chopped parsley, and serve. These shanks can be served over mashed potatoes, or other mashed root vegetables, and are best over polenta (many options).

 

Wild Boar Shanks, Osso Buco-Style

8 servings, recipe can be halved

Ingredients
8 wild boar shanks, approximately 2 inches thick/10 oz each, no larger than 1 lb
4 garlic cloves chopped fine
2 medium onions chopped fine
2 medium carrots chopped fine
2 medium celery ribs chopped fine
2 to 3 fennel stalks chopped fine
All-purpose flour for dusting the shanks
2 cups of dry rose wine
2-1/2 cups stock or water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons juniper berries
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 large sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Mise en place: Prep all the ingredients ahead of time so they’re ready to assemble and cook.

Method
Using kitchen string, tie the shanks around the center to ensure they don’t fall apart during the braise.

Lightly flour and salt and pepper the shanks, then lightly brown the shanks 2 or 4 at a time so as not to crowd them. Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm, while browning the remaining shanks.

In the same pot, over moderate heat, add some additional olive oil and then add the finely chopped vegetables to sauté as the soffritto base for the braise. You can make the soffritto light, medium, or dark depending upon your preference for flavor. Stir continually so as not to burn the vegetable mix.

Once you reach the color you are looking for, add the wine and stir to deglaze the pot, loosening all the brown bits stuck to the bottom from browning the shanks. Slowly bring to a boil.

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Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the wild boar shanks back to the pot. Next, add the stock or water, covering shanks no more than 2/3, and add the herbs and spice. Return to the simmer, cover, and cook in the oven for up to 3 hours or until the shanks are meltingly fork tender. Baste a few times during the cooking.

Carefully remove the cooked shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pot to the stove, and slowly bring the sauce to a boil to reduce.

Once the sauce reaches the reduced consistency, place one shank per plate and pour the sauce over, sprinkle with some fresh horseradish gremolata, and serve. These shanks are best served over soft polenta infused with a cheese like Asiago or Taleggio or the smoky blue made by the artisans at Rogue Creamery.

With this preparation I was able to repurpose the leftovers by trimming the meat off the shank bones, coarsely grinding it to prepare a Bolognese-style sauce, and serving it over a Spaccatelli pasta infused with cocoa. Quite a hearty dish!

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Let me know which style of Osso Buco you eventually try and what you served it with.

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An Uninvited Guest

You never know what the day will bring until it arrives—as turned out to be all too true today. Having logged several relaxing hours in the kitchen on Saturday in preparation of a brunch we had planned for today, Sunday, Mother Nature showed up as the uninvited guest. With the snow, icy road conditions, and high wind gusts, we decided to look for a time when the weather is less challenging to enjoy brunch with our friends.

The size of the gathering shrank, as one couple canceled early because B. was feeling “under the weather.” But we pressed on just the same.

Here is a look at what was on the menu and receipes for two of the dishes you might consider trying.

Chef Cindy Pawlecyn of Fog City Diner and Mustards Grill fame, calls them “rafts,” which are essentially thin, toasted bread slices that become the platform for all types of toppings, same as the Italian crostini. They are always part of my meals to get things started and to take the hunger edge off while the main dish is being assembled.

Today I planned to top the rafts with any of four offerings: a mixed olive relish, which is a rustic variation of tapenade; a side-by-side comparison of the pork rillettes and the pork cretons, both of which I recently wrote about; and just to keep things lively, the salmon rillette preparation that is sent to every table when dining at the NYC palace of haute seafood cuisine, Le Bernardin. Simply delicious!

To celebrate the Abruzzese piece of my heritage along with taking off a bit of the winter weather bite, I prepared a pot of Crema Di Castagne, (cream of chestnut soup). Steaming hot and garnished with minced toasted pancetta and minced sage, this dish would be a nice light lead-in to the next courses.

What brunch would be complete without some dish that included eggs? My favorite egg preparation is the frittata, and in this case I prepared this offering using pantry items on hand. It will be one of the two dishes I will feature here and, if you save these posts, then you can also refer to the October 2014 post entitled “The 4 a.m. Frittata” as the technique is similar.

The other featured dish uses ingredients that can be found throughout Italy, primarily in the cuisine of the southern provinces, as well as other countries around the Mediterranean rim. It is my interpretation of the restaurateur, chef, and author (Olives & Oranges) Sara Jenkins’ recipe of roasted rabbit accompanied by a celery and bread salad. Just a note for all you Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny devotees, rabbit meat is almost cholesterol free, low in calories, high in digestible protein content, and the environmental impact of farm-raised rabbits as compared to other livestock we consume, is very low.

Dessert was a simple Italian trattoria staple, the Olive Oil Cake. I have tried several interpretations of this cake, and the best I have found is the recipe for the cake served at Maialino’s Restaurant located in the Gramercy Park Hotel in NYC. The recipe is very straightforward and not only delicious at the end of a meal, but equally good with a cup of your favorite morning coffee, espresso, or latte—hence the perfect brunch component.

So let’s explore the two featured recipes.

 

Frittata of Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Herbs

This frittata was inspired by a similar one featured in the first edition of The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, entitled “Crabmeat Frittata with Tomatoes and Herbs.” Having all the ingredients in my pantry except the crabmeat, I chose to substitute shrimp, since I had very large prawns on hand, and a red onion instead of the shallots, both of which actually added a bit more color to the finished dish.

Ingredients
10 large eggs
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 large prawns (U6 or U8, i.e., 6 to the lb or 8 to the lb size), shells and tails removed (frozen for use in stock), slit in half, then cut into pieces the same size as lump crab pieces, approximately 1/2 inch
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes, which have been skinned and seeded if using fresh, or drained if using canned
1 package of fresh basil—chiffonade to yield approximately 1/3 cup

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Method
Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Crack the eggs in a large work bowl, whisk until homogenized, (you can add a little Half & Half to enrich the custard), sprinkle the chiffonade of basil along with some salt and pepper, whisk again, and set aside.

In a 13-inch ovenproof sauté pan (no smaller than a 10-inch), over medium-high heat, add olive oil to coat. Distribute the sliced onions around the pan and sauté, mixing until they begin to soften. Next, sprinkle the minced garlic over and work rapidly, stirring to incorporate but not burn. Next, add the tomatoes, distributing evenly and cooking until most of the moisture is evaporated. Sprinkle the thyme over and distribute the cut pieces of shrimp around.

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Pour the egg mixture over the pan, shake to evenly distribute, run a spatula around the perimeter, and cook the frittata until it begins to set up. Next place the pan in the preheated oven and bake until it completely firms up and there is no loose liquid on the top. Finally, change the oven over to broil and keep the frittata under the heat for approximately 3 minutes so that top sizzles and lightly browns.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool and the rim of the frittata pulls away from the pan edge. Run the spatula around the rim and shake the pan back and forth as necessary to loosen. Slide onto a serving platter. This dish is best served warm or at room temperature.

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Roasted Rabbit with Celery and Bread Salad

With my take on this dish, again I made a couple of substitutions. Instead of a whole rabbit, I chose to use rabbit hindquarters as they provide more meat per serving, added some Cuban oregano to the herb mix from the potted plant in my kitchen, and toasted the bread cubes in rendered duck fat for more overall flavor.

Ingredients
1 rabbit hind leg per person
3 large sprigs each of fresh rosemary and sage
6 to 7 Cuban oregano leaves
3 large garlic cloves
Olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of bread, cubed to 1/2-inch size
1 celery heart, including leaves
3 to 4 sprigs fresh parsley
Simple vinaigrette: 1 part red wine vinegar to 3 parts olive oil
Salt and pepper

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Method
Finely chop the garlic, then the herbs, then chop together to mix and set aside.

Rinse the rabbit legs and dry with paper towels. Set in a large bowl, lightly drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat. Sprinkle with the garlic/herb mix and lightly salt and pepper. Cover with clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of three hours or, even better, overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

When ready to roast, allow the rabbit to return to room temperature. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with some additional olive oil and roast for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and tent until ready to serve.

To toast the bread cubes, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and melt the duck fat, or if using olive oil, heat but not until smoking. Sprinkle the bread cubes around, lightly salt and pepper, and frequently toss until the oil is absorbed and the bread is crispy and toasted. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels while cooling.

Thinly slice the celery and place in a large work bowl. Rough chop the parsley leaves and very finely chop the parsley stems, adding both to the celery mix. Add the bread cubes and toss to combine. Lightly add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, just enough to moisten the salad and toss again.

Place 1-1/2 cups of the salad mix on the plate and place one rabbit leg on top. Drizzle another tablespoon of the vinaigrette over and serve.

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Well that concludes the brunch that never happened. I probably won’t have to do much cooking this week! Why not give one or both of these recipes a try, and if you are interested in any of the other menu items which I didn’t expand upon here, just let me know.

Do enjoy whatever you choose.

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