I absolutely love osso bucco. Luxuriously rich-tasting lamb or veal shanks simmered in liberal amounts of wine wine can make our whole ranch smell amazing. And the bones, the bones: the best osso bucco has big, rustic cross sections of marrow-filled bones that cook with all of the vegetables, imparting the most wonderful flavors. Working with meat like this makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time. There’s something so beautiful and primitive about it, the polar opposite of the styrofoam packages of chicken breasts in the grocery store. I got this meat from from Owen Family Farms. They have really gorgeous lamb, pastured veal and acorn-finished pork, and I’ve always been very happy with the quality of their products. The meat is most certainly on the pricey side, but I’d much rather have one lovingly prepared dish a week using ethically raised local meats than seven days of the cheaper stuff from the grocery store. If you treat this kind of meat properly, a little also goes a long way. My osso bucco recipe has a different ratio of meat to vegetables than most other recipes; I think that if you can flavor a whole pot of vegetables with one pound of lamb, than you absolutely should. My mom used to make this when we were growing up, and my favorite part wasn’t even the actual meat , it was the luscious sauce and the vegetables spooned over my dad’s saffron risotto. I used to find cooking techniques like this intimidating, so I didn’t start tackling braises until a few years ago. I’ve realized now that they’re really very simple, and I hope that anyone out in the internet universe that may read this will see that it’s possible to make a dish worthy of being served in the fanciest restaurant without much cooking experience at all. When I make a braise or a roast, I get it started in the morning, right when I’m drinking coffee and eating breakfast, because time is really the secret ingredient. Cooking meat very slowly on low heat for a whole day will ensure that it’s completely fork-tender and that the sauce is rich and delicious. Every few hours I’ll give it a stir or add some stock, but there’s very little work involved other than the first 20 minutes or so of cooking.
Cook Time: 30 minutes active cooking, and then 4-8 hours of sitting around while it simmers
- 1 1/4 lbs. lamb or veal shanks*
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 pieces of bacon, diced
- 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 c. diced carrots
- 4 c. diced celery ribs
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 c. crushed tomatoes
- 1 bottle of white wine (nothing too sweet)
- 4-8 c. of chicken/lamb/vegetable stock or some combination of stock and water
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley, for serving
- lemon zest, for serving
- 1/2 c. shaved parmesan cheese, for serving
Dredge the lamb shanks in flour. In a large soup pot set on medium heat, saute the bacon and the fresh herbs until the bacon is crispy but not burnt. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces from the pot and set them aside. Brown the lamb shanks in the bacon fat. When they’re nicely seared, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set them aside. Put the chopped carrots, onions and celery in the pot and saute for 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato sauce turns a darker shades of red and starts to caramelize (but not burn!). Turn the heat to high. Pour in the bottle of wine. Pour in 4 c. stock. Put the lamb shanks and the bacon back in the pot. Let everything come up to a simmer and then turn the heat to very low. Cook for atleast 2 hours but up to 8 hours. You’ll need to add more stock occasionally and give everything a stir to make sure nothing sticks. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over risotto or pasta, sprinkled with a touch of lemon zest, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.
For anyone that hasn’t tackled something like this before, here a few pictures to make it more clear:
“Dredging” just means putting a light coating of flour on the meat. This helps get a really nice sear on the outside, which in turn helps develop rich, delicious meat flavors in the braise. You can sauté the bacon in some olive oil if it makes it easier, but if you let it sit in the pan for a moment, the fat will start to render out, and you can have bacon fat as the only oil used to cook everything, (which is almost always a good thing.) Truthfully, I mainly used bacon because I’m out of olive oil and butter, and you could skip this step and just use olive oil if you want the recipe to be a bit lower in fat.It was only after I photographed all of this that I realized just how dirty my stove looks. When you’re searing the lamb shanks, you’ll notice that the pan will be starting to get all brown and crusty. Don’t worry- that mean’s you’re doing it right. If it starts to smoke, turn the heat down to very low. Add your carrots, celery and onions next, the mirepoix. Add the crushed tomatoes and keep cooking everything. The goal is to get the tomatoes to caramelize and turn a darker shade of reddish-brown because of the wonderful flavors that will happen.I’m not sure if the difference between these two pictures is that obvious; it’s kind of tricky to get good photos and not ruin dinner at the same time.Now turn the heat up really high just to make sure the pot is nice and hot for this part. The next step is my favorite, when you deglaze the pan with white wine. The wine pulls up all of that caramelized tomato stuff and brown lamb bits from the bottom of the pot and turns it into the beginning of a really killer sauce.Now just add the stock and meats, turn the heat down to very low, and wait. Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished:If you’re in love with someone and want them to love you back, make this for them. Trust me, it’s amazing.
*For people who aren’t so fond of gamey meats, chicken thighs will also work quite well (even though it’s not as traditional). If you have a freezer full of wild game could substitute duck or venison. And, shockingly, these recipe is easily made vegan. Instead of using meat, I substitute shiitake mushrooms and sliced parsnips or rutabagas. I think the unique flavor of these root vegetables and mushrooms kind of mimics the rich taste of lamb. If you’re using vegetables, no need to dredge them in flour. You can make a roux and thicken the sauce with flour if you want, but it’s not really necessary.