I have been taking a cooking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in order to improve my skills and learn a few new techniques. A recent class was devoted to the topic of braising, which I have done rarely in the past — only a few dishes that I learned as I was growing up.
Braising is a method of cooking that uses moist heat, where the food is first seared at very high temperatures and then finished in a covered pot with some amount of liquid and other aromatics (veggies and herbs), which give each dish a unique flavor. Braising uses heat, time and moisture to break down the tough connective tissues in meat, and is a good way to cook tougher cuts. It’s also a good “one pot” meal.
Most braises follow the same basic steps. The food to be braised (usually meat or poultry, but can also include fish as well as vegetables such as artichokes) is first seared to brown its surface and enhance the flavor. A small amount of liquid that often includes an acid (such as alcohol, wine or vinegar) is added to the pot along with a stock. The dish is then simmered until it is tender and falls off the bone, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Osso Buco is one such dish that uses the braising method of cooking. It originated in Milan and consists of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and stock. It is often garnished with gremolata (an herb mixture usually consisting of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic) and traditionally served with a starch, mainly risotto.
“Osso Buco” is Italian for “bone with a hole” (osso = bone, buco = hole), a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cut veal shank.
Osso Buco Alla Milanese (Veal Shanks in the style of Milan)
- 1/4 cup flour, heavily seasoned with salt and pepper
- 4 veal shanks
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 14 oz can Italian peeled tomatoes (crushed is also fine)
- 1 strip of orange rind
- Pinch of saffron
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/8 c parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup chicken or veal or beef stock
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- Rind of half a lemon, finely grated
- 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and finely chopped
To make the gremolata, simply combine the above ingredients and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Lightly flour the veal shanks. Heat the olive oil in a braising pot and brown the shanks on all sides. Discard the oil. Add the butter and saute the carrot and onion until soft. Then add the garlic. Add the wine. On high heat, reduce the wine by about half. Return the shanks to the pot and add the tomatoes, orange rind, saffron, basil, parsley, and stock. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover the ingredients in the pot with a piece of crumpled parchment paper, and fit it so that there is no space between the ingredients and the paper — you are trying to simulate a pressure cooker environment. Cover the pot. Braise the shanks in a 325 degree oven for 1 – 1.5 hours, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the meat comes out clean and without any resistance. Just before serving, remove the shanks and reduce the cooking juices until thickened. Add half the gremolata and simmer for 1 minute. Return the shanks to the pot. Sprinkle with the remaining gremolata.
Decorate the Osso Buco with additional rinds of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange. Make sure there is no white part attached to the rind. Julienne before scattering on top of the Osso Buco.
I generally would not serve the braising vegetables with the Osso Buco, except maybe as a side garnish. Because they are cut so small, they become “mushy” after cooking for so long. Serve instead with a nice risotto.
In the picture above, I am serving the Osso Buco with a Parmesan-Pea Risotto. Unfortunately, I took the picture before garnishing the dish.