Osso bucco is a classic Italian dish which, as long as you don’t translate it into English (bones with holes), has lovely romantic overtones and memories of Italian holidays. The dish is based on slow braised veal, but the bones, or more importantly the marrow from those bones, adds a delicious something else to this dish – whatever you do – make sure that the bones do go back to the kitchen ‘hollow’ with anything that still resides in their centres after cooking eaten and relished. The dish can also be made from shin beef as well as shin of veal, cut across the shin vertically, but I suspect that it then looses the gentle subtleness and hence the essence of the dish. The best known version of the dish comes from Milan and most of the recipes I found carried the name ossibuchi alla milanese – but boy were those recipes different from each other. I do not claim any authenticity for this dish and we didn’t serve it with the classic yellow saffron risotto which is also made with added bone marrow. Ours was much more simple, and served with plain rice – but for us it claimed the essence of Italy, if not the authenticity!!
The first thing to do is hunt down some veal shin – ideally around 4cm thick – this will more easily allow you to tie round some butchers string to hold the meat together whilst cooking and yet not be too big to cut through easily. You will normally need to go to a good butcher to get the cut,though I did find the rose veal for this recipe in our local M&S. It was a little thinner than I would have chosen – but a good find!
Before starting to cook the veal we tied a length of butchers string around the circumference of each of the pieces of meat so that it would hold together whilst cooking and up to the point of serving. These were then lightly floured with some well seasoned flour and then gently caramelised in butter in the Dutch oven to intensify their flavour. They were then set to one side.
A little more butter was then added to the pan and the onions were sautéd to slightly soften, then the carrots and celery were added and lightly cooked. To this gently cooking mixture was added the whole garlic cloves, lemon zest and some sage and the mix cooked for a few minutes more. In our ‘non-authentic version’ we also added some cut chestnut mushrooms, halved black olives, and a couple of handfuls of baby tomatoes together with a can of chopped tomatoes. At this point the white wine was added to the pan and the heat turned up to begin to concentrate the sauce. After about 10 minutes the meat was then sat back on top of the vegetables and the dutch oven was moved out of the kitchen and onto the Big Green Egg. This had been set up for indirect cooking at around 120C. Once gently bubbling, hot chicken stock was added and the pot was allowed to simmer in the closed EGG without its lid. This is another recipe where the use of commercial “stockpots’ works well as they can be added with little or no further liquid ,removing the need to reduce the sauce and so allowing a more gentle cook. Cooking without the lid on the Dutch oven works well in the EGG as the EGG naturally retains moisture in the food being cooked so the pan does not tend to dry out, but the absence of the lid allowed the whole dish to pick up some very gentle ‘smoky tones’ from the charcoal itself – rather than adding any smoking wood. The whole dish was cooked very gently for around 3hrs making sure the meat was kept moist by the surrounding sauce. You just need to keep an occasional eye on the cooking over the 3 hours and gently stir the sauce without disturbing the meat too much. As the cooking proceeds, the sauce takes up a richer character but not so much that it is going to overpower the veal. Once fully cooked the sauce is wonderfully unctuous and the meat soft and buttery. The sauce can be finished beautifully by adding a few dots of butter and stirring it in once the meat has been removed; not absolutely necessary but a perfect way to finish it off. The only other thing to remember is to snip off the string used to hold the meat together before serving.
A simple Osso-Bucco recipe - with tomato enriched sauce
- 700 gm of Shin Veal
- Length of butchers string to tie round each piece of meat
- Seasoned flour
- Knob of butter
- 2 Medium Onions finely diced
- 1 Large carrot finely diced
- 3 sticks of celery finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves
- Lemon zest
- Bay leaf
- Generous glass of white wine
- Chicken stock/chicken stockpot
- Large can of chopped tomatoes / fresh tomatoes
- Handful of chopped black olives (optional)
- Chestnut mushrooms (optional)
- Step 1 Tie some butchers string around the circumference of the meat to hold it together whilst cooking. Lightly dust with a seasoned flour and caramelise in butter in the Dutch oven. Then set to one side.
- Step 2 Add a little more butter to the pan and sauté the onions to slightly soften. Then add the the carrots and celery and cook lightly.
- Step 3 To this gently cooking mixture add the whole garlic cloves, the lemon zest, a bay leaf and some sage and cook for a few minutes more. Add the sliced chestnut mushrooms, black olives and a couple of handfuls of baby tomatoes together with a can of chopped tomatoes and bring back to the simmer.
- Step 4 Add the white wine and turn up the heat to begin to concentrate the sauce. After about 10 minutes set the meat back on top of the vegetables and put the dutch oven into the Big Green Egg set up for indirect cooking at around 120C. Once gently bubbling, add the hot chicken stock (or stockpot) and leave to simmer without the Dutch oven lid, in the closed EGG.
- Step 5 Cook very gently for around 3hrs making sure the meat is kept moist by the surrounding sauce. Gently stir the sauce occasionally without disturbing the meat too much.
- Step 6 The sauce can be finished by adding a few dots of butter and stirring it in once the meat has been removed.
- Step 7 Remember to snip off the string used to hold the meat together before serving on a bed of rice.