Even though I look forward to steamy hot weather in Alexandria, Virginia–think dacquiris, rose wine, grilled meats and veggies, crunchy granitas with a dollop of whipped cream–but by October, I am tired of f having my shirt stick to my body and even the chocolate chip cookie of salads (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) has had its seasonal run with me.
So while I do the v- e-r -y s- l- o-w transition of summer clothes from my teeny closet to the attic and start hauling down cool weather clothes (hoping that even with moth killer stuff, they have survived), I can hardly wait to make this dish. It can be started in the morning and left on the stove (burner off, of course) and finished off for dinner that night– or even better– the next day. In that case, stick the pot in the fridge. One of the reasons I like to do this in the fall and winter is that we have wonderful local Roma tomatoes. I cook it with canned ones later in the season, but the fresh ones just put this dish over the edge. I learned from Domenica Marchetti, the low tech but big reward technique of halving meaty Roma tomatoes and holding on to the skin side, grating them against the large of holes of a box grater.
So here is my tried and true, never fail recipe for Osso Buco and polenta. (By the way, I think we have the best polenta in our shop. It is actually milled in the USA and is non GMO.) The veal shanks used in this recipe came from Julian Shapiro, the butcher (and fount of butchery knowledge) at Society Fair.
This is for 6-10 (depending on how large your shank bones are and how thick the cut)
8 to 10 veal shanks 2 inches thick
a plateful of all purpose flour seasoned generously with sea salt and (freshly ground, please) pepper
1/3 cup olive oil (no need to use a really good EVOO, just a decent supermarket one)
4 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove peeled, split if it is a large one
1 large peeled carrot finely diced
1 large peeled onion in same dice
1 large peeled celery stalk in same dice
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups veal or chicken stock
14 oz chopped tomatoes (skin removed)
Bouquet garni (some parsley stems, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, pepper corns, celery leaves tied in a muslin bag)
Tie each veal shank with linen or cotton butcher’s twine around the middle so that the meat adheres to the bone. Snip off the long tied string ends. Turn them over on all sides in your plate of seasoned flour. Heat your combination of
olive oil, butter and whole peeled garlic clove in a pan that is large enough to hold all of them in a single layer. (This is where you will see the advantages of thick gauge copper or aluminum). You do not want the garlic to turn brown, just move it around until the butter and oil heat to medium before you put the shanks in. Turn the shanks over until each side is well browned. Remove them from your pan and discard the garlic.
Add the diced carrot, onion and celery (the Holy Trinity of braising) to the pan and cook over medium heat without browning for 6 minutes or so. Then turn up the heat to high and add the wine, and allow it to cook off the alcohol for about 3 minutes. Add your stock, grated fresh tomatoes or chopped canned tomatoes and the prepared bouquet garni bag. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste for your preferred flavor balance and then add your shanks. Shanks should stand up in a single layer.
Cover and simmer for at least an hour. Meat should be tender, so it may take longer. You can remove the shanks and increase the heat so that the sauce thickens and then return the shanks to the pan. Discard the bouquet garni and taste the sauce for salt and pepper adjustment.
I served this normally with our Polenta from India Tree, but rice or a pasta dish is lovely as well. A salad after this and a simple cake dessert with fruit is all you need. I do a grappa cake with a somewhat seasonal fruit compote, which I will reveal in another blog!