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My mama's perfect Osso Buco recipe
My mama's perfect Osso Buco recipe

The recipe for this dish originated in Milan. When it is well prepared, this is one of my favourite Italian dishes, especially when it´s cold outside and you crave some real soul food. It´s a shame that many restaurants use a poor quality cuts of meat to make this dish. What is the correct name? Osso Buco, Ossobuco or Osso Bucco, I have found all 3 used in Italy, however I will stick to Osso Buco, with one c. Adding tomato, I indicated as an option in this recipe, is the way the dish is prepared in Emilia Romagna.

The Milanese Osso Buco definitely does not contain tomatoes. It is important to buy good quality calf shank, which is definitely not cheap. My butcher cuts the pieces to the size I indicate, and I use 1 cut per person. The marrow in the bone is absolutely part of this dish and indispensable for the correct taste, while cooking, try to leave it inside each piece of bone. A topping (gremolata) of fresh parsley, lemon peel and garlic is an essential part of the dish. Traditionally Osso Buco is served with Risotto alla Milanese. 

Gremolata is the name of a mixture that comes in lots of varieties, adapted to the taste of the dish it is served with. For example, the lemon zest can be replaced with orange zest to sweeten the gremolata. If you want to add a bit more body to the mixture, consider adding finely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts.

Capers in the gremolata go well with cooked or smoked salmon. Sometimes chopped mint is added to partially or completely replace the parsley, it goes excellent with lamb for instance, a spoonful of sugar or honey with a mint gremolata gives it even more taste.

For the gremolata for my Osso Buco I used flat parsley, garlic and lemon. I've used curly parsley in the past, and while not authentic, it worked very well.

Ingredients:
  • 4 lbs veal shank in slices of 2 inches
  • flower
  • olive oil
  • 1/ cup of butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • (optional) 1 can of cut tomatoes or 1 bottle of passata
  • 2 cups  of white wine
  • 2 cups of chicken or beef stock
  • salt and pepper
  • For the gremolata
  • 1 bunch flat Italian parsley (other parsley may be used substituted)
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
Recipe steps:
  1. Ask your butcher to cut the shank into slices of about 2 inches. They should all be about the same size. Make sure that there is plenty of meat around the bone and the skin should be left around the meat, to prevent it from falling apart while cooking. You can also tie each piece together with some kitchen string, around and then across.
  2. Put flour in a bowl and season with salt and pepper, dip the shanks into it and make sure they´re covered on all sides.
  3. In the meantime, heat enough olive oil in a frying pan to cover the bottom with a ¼ inch layer of oil and when hot add the butter to let it melt. Fry a few pieces of meat at the time until they color light brown on all sides.
  4. Repeat until all cuts of meat are done and set aside. In the remaining oil (add some extra if needed), fry the onion, carrot and celery until soft, but don´t let them get brown.
  5. When the vegetables are soft, put the meat back in the pan with the juice that accumulated from the meat while waiting.
  6. Heat the wine in a separate pan and then pour over the meat.
    Turn up the heat and reduce about half of the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan regularly, the sediment adds to the flavor of the dish.
  7. Heat the stock and pour about half over the meat. You can also add the tomatoes now if you want.
  8. Let it simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours on a low heat.
    Turn the meat over occasionally, but be careful that you don’t lose the marrow inside the bone.
  9. Add a little more stock, if necessary, a little at a time. When the meat is cooked and the sauce is still a bit on the watery side, just remove the meat from the pan and let the sauce reduce over a high heat while stirring all the time.
  10. Making the gremolata: Clean the parsley. Remove all stems.
  11. Cut the garlic into a few pieces.
  12. Cut the lemon zest into pieces. Its important to use organic lemon as the skin of other lemons will have absorbed a lot of chemicals like insecticides.
  13. Put everything together in a chopper or cut into tiny pieces.
    To serve place the meat on a platter, add some sauce and a handful of the topping.
  14. Serve the Osso Buco with risotto. Serve the rest of the sauce separately.
  15. Serve extra gremolata in a separate bowl on the table, so everyone can sprinkle it over their plate as they wish. Keep the parsley and lemon looking nice and fresh, in other words don’t make it too far in advance.