Osso buco, that perfect slab of unctuousness coaxed into melt in your mouth tenderness by a luxurious slow cooking. Would you believe that up until a few years ago I had no idea what it even was ? I assumed it was one of those things on the menu at an Italian restaurant that I would never order. Much like gnocchi and saltimbocca (not that I have anything against them, I just haven’t had a good one).
So it wasn’t until I started getting interested in the slow food movement, and slow cooking specifically as a means to softening up less appealing cuts of meat, that I decided it was time to try making osso buco for myself. I’ve had some success with my oxtail dish – coda alla vaccinara, which ranks on my list of tastiest dishes I’ve made in recent times, so I was hoping that the marrow would work it’s magic in this too, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Now normally my recipes on the site are pretty slap dash. Yes they work, and most of them I’d be happy to cook again… but for whatever reason I don’t. I get bored, I wander off, I forget. My attention span is about as short as a three year old in a cafe drawing pictures with colouring pens (actually probably less, because she was good Ed :)). So it’s a testament to taste if I write about something more than once, and if it gets adopted into my regular stable of dishes, then it’s pure gold.
So clearly risotto in it’s many forms is on that list… as is anything containing chorizo in it, and poached eggs. A chorizo risotto with a poached egg on top may just my ultimate mash up dish, but now I’m getting distracted again…
Back to the Osso Buco.
The recipe I based mine around is a simpler version of the common ones, with a few small twists. I personally don’t think carrots and celery add much to the flavour (well they do, but not in a good way), and I much prefer red wine to white wine for the cooking. This is for once something that I’ve taken to refining a little over the many times I’ve made it now. So you my appreciative audience can benefit from my willingness to rinse and repeat this one a few times over to get it just right.
You still don’t get exact measurements though… they’re for the weak :)
Osso Buco alla Matt
- 4 chunky pieces of osso buco – Veal seems to popular but if you’re a little different you can think outside the box and take the hole in the bone definition to whichever kind of meat you like. Other examples would be venison, or a very tasty lamb osso buco, that I tried recently after asking the boys at “Meat The Butcher” (still love that name) in Dog Swamp Shopping centre to slice up some lamb shanks for me.
- flour for dusting
- 2 onions – chopped finely
- 4 – 5 cloves garlic – chopped finely
- 2 cans tinned roma tomatoes (home made if you got em), and extra passata
- a bottle of red wine (you won’t use it all, but it’s good to have while you’re cooking)
- sea salt and cracked pepper.
- some parsley if you like
How I make mine
So dust the osso buco in flour and shake off any excess, then in a hot pan fry them in olive oil until they’re a golden brown colour all over. Then take them out of the pan to rest a bit and wait for their time back in the sun.
Now add some more oil to the pan and throw in your chopped onions and a little garlic. Cook them slowly down until they’re soft and then bring back the osso buco, laying them on top of a little onion bed, and dousing thoroughly with red wine (1 or 2 cups), pureed tomatoes (1 or 2 cans), and a sprinkling of garlic.
You now turn the heat right down on the pan, making sure that the osso buco are arranged so that they lie flat in the pan, and are mostly covered by the liquid, adding more tomato passata or wine to bring the level up. This is where the magic happens.
Try and find something productive to do for the next few hours while the wine and heat work their way into the sinews and activate the marrow in the middle of the bones. Personally I don’t think you can cook this for long enough (given that you have plenty of liquid so it doesn’t dry out). The longer you cook it, the more mouth wateringly tender it will become.
Along the way, you may want to give it a season with salt and pepper, and somewhere towards the end sprinkle over some more garlic and parsley, give that another half an hour and you’re done.
Be careful taking them out of the pan, as by this stage (2 hours + later) they should be falling away from the bone without you doing anything.
I’ve served mine over a variety of side dishes, a sweet potato mash, a regular potato mash, a pearl barley risotto alla milanese (not as great as it sounds), and I’m also thinking polenta would be fantastic.
Traditionally in Milan it’s served over the risotto alla milanese ( a rich saffron risotto ) with gremolata on top. Not that I’m much of one for tradition, but they are seriously onto something with this combination.
Give this one a shot, it’s 2 hours of your life you won’t get back, but the 30 minutes of eating it afterwards will totally make up for it :)