We like our routines in this family. We go out to eat every Friday and have family dinner at home on Sunday. But Sarah, Jess and I reserve Saturday night to do whatever for dinner—eat with friends or just each other! My parents, however, can be found at home having date night. My mom usually whips up a special meat dish that often takes a while to cook (making it perfect for a Saturday in the kitchen).
Recently, they’ve had an intruder on their date night and that intruder is me. Ever since I started eating meat again (about a year ago) I’ve been able to fall in love with some of my mom’s best meat dishes all over again. I have been known to change my Saturday night plans for one dish in particular: classic Italian braised veal shanks called Osso Buco. Ossobuco means “marrowbone” in Italian (thanks Google Translate) which is a perfect name for this dish because the best part is the marrow found in the veal shank bone. In restaurants you’ll see this dish served in all sorts of ways, switching up the meat (I’ve seen beef used before), the vegetables and the starch (polenta is the most common). My parents, being the routine people that they are, like white rice as the starch which is a great way to sop up the amazing sauce.
The other thing that makes Saturday night dinner special is the red wine. My dad pulls out a nice bottle of red wine for every Saturday night dinner to match up to the amazing dinner. I know my mom doesn’t mind me crashing the date night, but I think my dad might mind a little because I steal some of the nice wine that he opened for his honey. But sharing is caring, Ed! This Saturday we had a Cotes du Rhone. Not exactly within the Italian theme, but we thought it would go along nicely with the veal.
I also know that my mom likes to have me around for date night because I help her out with the cooking! This Saturday, we had Jessica’s help too. When my mom and Jess were out running errands on Saturday, they got inspired to make pomegranate martinis to sip while we cooked (the recipe for 1 big cocktail is: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce triple sec, 2 ounce pomegranate juice and 1/2 ounce lime juice. Mix it all together in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and serve in a chilled martini glass).
Not only was Jess inspired to spice up our cocktails, she also thought it was time to christen her new dining room table for the meal! This veal is definitely worthy of this beautiful setting.
This recipe is great for a special occasion or for a special someone on a casual night. See how dirty this page in my mom’s cook book is?
You should always look for the dirty pages in a cook book because then you know you have a good one on your hands.
- 4 TB olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- ½ cup finely chopped carrots
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- ½ TB finely chopped garlic
- 4 lbs veal shanks – we like to find a shank a person usually (depending on the size)
- Flour to lightly coat veal shanks
- ½ tsp of dried basil (we used 4 fresh basil leaves)
- ½ tsp of dried thyme (we used 4 sprigs of fresh thyme)
- 6 parsley sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
- ¾ cup beef stock (chicken stock is a good substitute)
- S + P to taste
In an oven safe casserole dish or Dutch oven, heat 2 TB of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with some S + P (about 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper). Coat everything with the fat and let sauté for 10 to 15 minutes. We turned the heat down to medium low heat after adding the veg because it seemed to be going too quick so keep an eye out to be sure that garlic doesn’t burn.
As the veg sweats in the pan, check out your veal shanks. My mom usually cuts off any excess fat she finds. It doesn’t hurt to leave it on, but it just means your guests may have to do a bit more doctoring themselves to get to the meat.
In a separate skillet or cast iron pan, heat the last 2 TB of olive oil over high heat. Add S + P to both sides (1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper). Coat the shanks lightly in some flour and shake off any excess. Once the olive oil is hot (test with a few sprinkles of excess flour if you aren’t sure), add the veal shanks to get both sides browned. Our shanks took just over 2 minutes a side to get a nice brown color.
At some point during the browning process, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Once browned, add the veal shanks to the casserole/Dutch oven where your veg is still cooking away. To the skillet where you browned the veal shanks, add the white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up those browned yummy bits. Let the white wine cook by itself for about a minute to let is reduce a bit. Then add your diced tomatoes and beef stock. Bring this liquid mixture to a boil then add to the casserole/Dutch oven over the shanks. With that, add the herbs. Since we used fresh herbs, we tied them all together in a bouquet garni (French for garnished bouquet).
This trick allows you to put the herbs in whole, stems and all, tied together by a string—this way it is easy to fish out after cooking and no chopping is involved. My mom usually just has fresh parsley, so she’ll add a few sprigs separately and lovingly fishes them and the bay leaves out one by one before serving. I think she liked this technique!
Lightly stir everything together. You may need to add some extra stock or water at this point to get the meat fully covered with liquid (we added another cup of stock).
Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
As the meat cooks, you’ll have time to cook any starch you fancy. We started our rice 30 minutes before the shanks were set to be done.
At the hour and 15 minutes mark, take out the veal out and give it a fork test to be sure the veal is tender. Fish out your bouquet garni, scoop up some rice, a veal shank per person then generously pour the sauce over the rice and veal.
In case you haven’t had bone marrow before, don’t be afraid. Stick your fork or knife in there and scoop out the treasure inside. The marrow is fatty and flavorful. I usually like to eat it with the meat to vamp up the meat flavor.
Though this meal takes some time to make, it is actually quite easy to prep. If you plan ahead, this dish can be a very impressive addition to your repertoire!