Ottawa has had a terrible summer. Rainy. Sort of like a Vancouver summer, so haven't really minded all that much, but Saturday may have been the tipping point. Summer is definitely over. It was a very fall day and that meant fall food. Food for a cold and rainy day and for me that means braised meat and at the top of the pile of braised meat is osso bucco. Veal shanks cooked for hours, low and slow. It is comfort food that requires the oven being on for three hours at least. Not exactly something I'd normally cook in August, but the day was asking for it.
The dish begins with the veal shanks that have been seasoned with salt and pepper and dried with a paper towel before being browned in a big oven proof pot with a little cooking oil. Tied with string to maintain their shape and carefully placed in the pot one at a time not to crowd them and have them steam instead of brown. Take your time with this. You're building flavour with the browning that you won't be able to make up for later in the process. I used a medium heat, but played with it constantly though the browing to get the right measure of cooking, but not burning.
After it piece was cooked I took them out and held them aside before dumping in a bowl full of a chopped onion, several carrots and several stalks of celery, plus several cloves of garlic that had been minced. The vegetables were seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in the same pot and oil that the veal was browned in, then came about two, maybe three, tablespoons of tomato paste. All this was allowed to brown and then about a cup of white wine was added and I scraped up any of the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. This was followed by about a cup of chicken stock from my freezer and about a cup and a half of strained tomatoes. Then came a couple of strips of lemon zest, a couple of bay leaves and a bundle of parsley and thyme that had been tied together so I could fish it out easily when the cooking was down. The meat was returned to the pot, the lid was put on and the whole thing put in the oven for two hours at about 325F. After two hours, I took the lid off and continued the baking for another 30 minutes or so,
This was the result. I carefully removed the veal shanks, trying to keep them as intact as possible and put them on a platter. Then I fished out the bundle of herbs, the bay leaves and the lemon zest before reducing the liquid a little on the stove top. Once done, I returned the veal on top of the sauce and vegetables and put the cover on to await dinner. This was all done hours before our guests arrived for dinner. That's the brilliance of osso bucco as a dinner party food. All the work is done ahead and you don't have to worry about it. Just rewarm it when your guests are ready to eat and you're golden. We served this with a saffron risotto. I will go into the risotto technique another time, but there was nothing special about it. Very standard stuff, taught to me by Jessica, that I use all the time.
But here's the part that set this osso bucco apart from all others that I've had. The horseradish and pine nut gremolata. If you've made or eaten osso bucco before you'll know that it is one of the richest dishes you'll have. And the heavy nature of braised veal shanks isn't exactly lightened by a side of saffron risotto. What does make it very good is the gremolata. A mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic. But this time I did something a little different. I used the one from the Babbo cookbook. It is a mixture of parsley and lemon zest, but it also uses toasted pine nuts and fresh grated horseradish. Plus a little salt and pepper. This was fantastic. The horseradish brings out so much more than just lemon zest on its own, while the pine nuts add an element of texture, plus a little richness of their own. It made all the difference for the dish. I absolutely loved it and will definitely use this gremolata again.
Salt and pepper.
One onion, diced
Three carrots, diced.
Three stalks of celery, diced.
Four cloves of garlic, mined.
Two tablespoons tomato paste.
One cup white wine.
One cup chicken broth.
One and a half cups strained tomatoes.
Two bay leaves.
Two strips lemon zest.
One bundle of several springs of thyme and several sprigs of parsley.
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper