Foodie confession time…
Up until yesterday. I had never prepared ossobuco, that beautiful Italian dish from Milan consisting of tender, braised veal shanks usually (no, traditionally) served with risotto alla milanese (risotto with saffron). After an unforgettable lunch experience at my favorite restaurant in Duras (La Terrasse), I vowed I would have to make an ossobuco myself too. And I agreed to do so on that first chilly evening of autumn, which happened to be yesterday.
A few days before making it, I go into a conversation with a fellow foodie on Twitter, Alessia, who happens to be from Milan. When I told her that I wanted to serve my ossobuco with gnocchi, as I ate it in France, she quickly advised me otherwise: “oh, but ossobuco isn’t with gnocchi, you have to pair with risotto with saffron (alla milanese),” she wrote. Though normally speaking, I do not adhere to convention, there is nothing I love more than people who are passionate about food and want to share that passion with me, be it through suggestions or recipes. Recently, another fellow foodie, Alessandro from Sicily, shared his recipe for spaghetti nero di seppia — at the top of my ‘to-try’ list — and such a nice gesture, too.
Anyhow, my Twitter friend from Milan pointed out a recipe for me, however, I also decided to consult one of my favorite Italian cookbooks Cucina di casa mia, written by the lovely Nicoletta Tavella. A few years ago, I wrote a review about the book for Ze.nl. Nicoletta’s book is not only a great source of inspiration, but also a wonderful tribute to family cooking.
I didn’t follow either recipe to the letter. Instead, as I usually do, I went in with my own intuition (and the advice of Alessandro to “take it slow”). In fact, I took it very slow… 3 1/2 hours, to be precise. The meat was so tender you could eat it with a spoon, and the results were mind blowingly good, especially with a Barolo to wash it down with. Trust me. I am not exaggerating. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband.
It won’t be long until I make this again. Thank you Nicoletta, Alessia and Alessandro for your recipes, tips and inspiration, and thank you to my butcher for providing the meat… and to my husband for being the most grateful of eaters!
- 3 veal shanks
- 3 tomatoes
- large knob of butter
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 rib of celery, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 150 ml white wine
- 200 ml beef stock
- 2 tsps dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- salt & freshly-cracked pepper
- 1/2 bunch of parsley
- 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
- grated rind of 1 lemon
Wash the meat, dry well and allow to come to room temperature. Make a small X on the underside of each tomato with a sharp knife. Place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. You can now easily remove the skins. Chop the tomatoes and set aside. Make an incision on 3 sides of the meat so that it doesn’t curl. Melt the butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole, dredge the meat in flour and brown well on all sides over a medium-high temperature. Remove the meat from the pan, cover with foil and set aside. Reduce the heat and gently saute the onion, carrot and celery for about 7 minutes. Now increase the heat again, add the wine and let it reduce a little. Next, add the stock, chopped tomatoes, thyme and tomato paste. Let this come to the boil and then add in your meat and all the juices that were released. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat again and cook for 3 1/2 hours, flipping the meat once or twice. Shortly before serving, combine the parsley, garlic and lemon to make a gremolata. Put this on top of the shanks and leave to cook for a few more minutes. Serve with risotto alla milanese, though I still think I might try gnocchi or even polenta sometime!