Friday, April 22, 2011

Osso Buco Siciliano

I love the Italian dish known as osso buco, but in the past, at least in Memphis, the cross cut veal shanks needed were generally not easy to find. Now that I’ve found them available even at Costco, I would love to share a version I made recently for friends.

The term osso buco means hollow bone in Italian. One of the best parts of the dish is the marrow in the bones, scooped out and spread on bread. There are special scooping spoons made for this, but the only ones I could find here are quite pricey. I find a cocktail fork works almost as well, but the little scoops are on my shopping list for my next trip to Italy.

This is a tough cut of veal, but the long oven braising gives a really rich and flavorful sauce. It could also be braised on top of the stove at a very low temperature. Many Italian homes, even today, don’t have large ovens and would do that. But then you’d have to check it occasionally to make sure there’s enough liquid, and that the shanks aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. So much easier to put the pan in the oven and forget it!

The classic standard is "Osso Buco Milanese," with white wine, vegetables and tomato. I wanted something a little different, and tried it with dry Marsala, to give it a more Sicilian feel. With the standard version, the traditional side dish is saffron risotto, but I used grilled polenta. Rice or mashed potatoes would be equally tasty and less work. Even chunks of crusty bread would be great to soak up every bit of the tasty sauce.


1 ½ cups dry Marsala, divided
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup flour
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
6 pieces veal shank, cut about 1 ½-inch thick
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup onion, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme (see note)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Minced parsley or more thyme sprigs, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pour ½ cup of the Marsala over the raisins in a small bowl and let set until needed.

Mix the flour with salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add the shanks one at a time and shake to coat. Remove each to a wire rack while coating the others. Toss any remaining flour into the trash.

In a Dutch oven just large enough to hold the shanks in one layer, heat the olive oil over medium heat. In batches, brown the meat well on both sides. Remove to a plate and reserve. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times then add the onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the Marsala and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits. Add the chicken stock.

Return the veal to the pan with any juices on the plate, making sure the smaller end of the bone is facing down (so the marrow doesn’t fall out). Add the raisins with their soaking liquid, scattering evenly. Tuck the thyme and bay leaf around them, cover tightly and bake for about an hour. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the cooking liquid, replace the cover and cook another 15 to 30 minutes, or until veal is very tender.

If you’d like a thicker sauce, remove the shanks to a plate and keep warm while reducing the liquid over medium heat. Serve in flat soup plates with the sauce ladled over it. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs or chopped parsley.  Serves 6.

Note: If you don’t have fresh thyme substitute two tablespoons fresh or one tablespoon dried rosemary leaves. Dried thyme would not work well in this dish.
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