Ossobuco is a famous specialty of the city of Milan in Italy, consisting of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. Many (myself included) consider the bone marrow in the center to be the most delicious part of the shank.
Ossobuco is often garnished with gremolata (parsley, garlic and lemon zest finely chopped together) and traditionally served with risotto alla milanese, which is flavored with both saffron and bone marrow. The veal should ideally braise until the meat can fall off the bone and be eaten with a fork alone.
Milan claims to be the city where Ossobuco was born. Its City Council, in 2007, solemnly declared the oss (or òs) buss, ossobuco in Milanese dialect, as part of the De.Co. (Denominazioni Comunali in Italian, or “community denominations”), which is an official public acknowledgement that a certain dish or product belongs to a certain territory.
There is no dispute of the fact that Ossobuco originated in the Italian region of Lombardy, home to Milan. No one, however, can say exactly when the dish was created.
The use of marrowbones and veal shanks was common in the Middle Ages in Italian cuisine, but there is no evidence of the presence of ossobuco (alla milanese) as a dish, at that time.
The gremolata used to flavor Ossobuco comes from the Milanese word “gremolà”, ‘reduce to grains’ and it was also used in the past to season scaloppine and dishes made with rabbit. It is added to ossobuco only at the end, before serving it.
Sometimes the gremolata contains rosemary and sage, or even anchovy, as Ada Boni recommend in her Il Talismano della Felicità. I do use anchovy in my personal recipe, but you can easily leave it out.
Citizens, this is truly one of the world’s great dishes and my version is incomparable – I am confident you will agree with your divine Leader on this point. 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 large 2 ½ inch thick veal shanks, with the skin still on, each patted dry – if at all possible, specify the middle part of the hind shank, which has enough tender meat around the marrowbone and which the fore shank doesn’t have
flour for coating
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 white onions – finely chopped
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
2 celery stalks – destringed and finely chopped
1 sage sprig – finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped marjoram
2 bay leaves
2 anchovy fillets – finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leafed parsley stalks removed, leaves chopped
at least ¾ cup (between ¾ and 1 is about right) chardonnay
at least ¾ cup (between ¾ and 1 is about right) beef stock
2 tablespoons cognac, or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 anchovy, mashed
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Combine the lemon rind, parsley, anchovy and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.
Make a series of vertical cuts around the edge of the veal to avoid shrinkage, then tie securely with kitchen string to keep the meat attached to the bone.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, including the bone marrow in the middle. Spread the flour on a plate and dip the veal in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based, flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. Add the veal in a single layer and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
In the same pan, gently fry the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Stir in the herbs, anchovy fillets and lemon zest.
Return the veal to the pan, making sure that it is submerged and not simply sitting on top of the vegetables. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the parsley.
Pour in the white wine and the stock along with any remaining juices from the plate on which the meat rested. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes to reduce.
Bring the mixture back to the boil and skim off all the impurities that rise to the surface.
Cover with a lid and cook over very low heat for about 2 hours until the veal is very tender, turning the veal every 30 minutes or so.
Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof serving dish, discard the strings, and keep the shanks warm. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids, and again skim the fat.
Boil the pan juices for 8 minutes, add the cognac, boil 2 more minutes and then baste the shanks, and sprinkle gremolata over all. Serve immediately with saffron risotto and pan juices on the side.