Osso buco! If ever there was classic Italian comfort food, this would be it! Served with pasta or as my friend Maria serves it, with risotto. It is a tummy filling, lip smackingly good dish (yes I know there is no word like smackingly). With osso buco, you get fall off the bone meat, delicious thick sauce and most of all, delicious marrow (smackingly).  It is cooked low and slow for a long time – in the range of 2 – 3 hours. You don’t need to check on it too often, just let it be.

The secret to a thick rich sauce is a couple of things. First, make the battuto (I know, what a word – like Shashimi Togarashi, that delightful Japanese condiment). Battuto is an Italian term for finely chopped aromatics – in this case, carrots, onions and celery, that when deeply browned, form the basis for rich and hearty flavored dishes. If you have attended Italy vs India (or any in the series of classes Maria and myself have done at the Loblaw PC Cooking Schools), you will know I use this method for my Ragu (I also use it for short ribs – http://www.foodinspires.com/2013/04/09/the-best-beef-short-ribs-you-will-make/). Every cuisine has a version of battuto – also known as mire poix, sofrito etc. It’s a technique that is often forgotten in our rush to make food fast.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Maria’s Italian Comfort Food class (look her up at pccookingschool.ca – Italian Comfort Food, to attend one of her classes, it’s been sold out at every school that’s run it so far so you better hurry). Make this on a Saturday afternoon for a comfortable Saturday night or Sunday afternoon meal. The marrow releases wonderful richness to the sauce but also becomes slightly firm as it takes on the flavor of the ingredients it has been cooking in for the last 2.5 – 3 hours. I always save my marrow for the last bite – anticipation I think. Use good quality wine, something full bodied like a Cabernet Sauvignon, deep, dark and delicious. A Dutch oven really helps as well. You can brown the meat in the pot, then remove before moving on to the rest of the ingredients. Add the meat back in and finishing the process. Do the laundry, have a glass of wine – you only need 2 cups for the osso buco, shame to waste the rest :), watch Netflix, really anything you want for 2.5 – 3 hours.

The longer this sits, the better it tastes. Make this delicious supper. We had leftover osso buco with Buttermilk Biscuits – another recipe in my “Fast and Easy” collection. This also works really well with lamb shanks. Of course, you can always finish it off with lemon zest and parsley as well.  No matter what you decide to serve it with or finish it off with, it is perfect for a cold, damp day! As always – enjoy!

3lbs veal shanks (about 6 pieces 2-3″ thick if you can)
Seasoned flour – salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, all-purpose flour
1 medium carrot, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
2 medium onions, small dice
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
3-4 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 540ml can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325F
In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat add 2 tbsp. olive oil
Pat the meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Dredge in the seasoned flour – shake off any excess, then add the meat to the hot oil
Brown the sides – about 5 minutes per side – the meat should come off the bottom easily when ready – remove the shanks to a large bowl and set aside, cover
Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven and cook the mixture stirring frequently, season with salt and pepper – about 10 minutes cooking for the mixture to caramelize and leave a residue on the bottom of the pan, add the garlic and thyme – stir to cook – 20 seconds
Remove the onion mixture from the pan
Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and the tomato paste, fry the paste to caramelize and sweeten – about 2 minutes Add the bay leaves and the wine scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits, add the onion mixture back to the pot and stir
Add the shanks (with the liquid from the bowl) back into the pan
Add diced tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes
Add enough chicken broth so the liquid only just covers the shanks
Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven
Cook for about 2.5 – 3 hours – please look at it and stir gently from the bottom at least once every hour
Meat should be tender and falling off the bone
Remove from the oven and take out the meat to a separate bowl
Remove any excess oil from the pot as well as the bay leaves, then using an immersion blender puree until thick and smooth – thin with some additional stock if needed – you could also strain this throug a sieve pushing down on the cooked veggies, but don’t forget to scrape around the outside of the sieve
Season with salt and pepper – taste season and taste again
Gently add the meat back to the pot, spoon the sauce over the meat
Transfer the meat to plates, finish off with more sauce (and if using lemon zest and parsley)
Enjoy with pancetta risotto, pasta, buttermilk biscuits or a crusty Italian loaf – let the star of the show be the veal shanks, nothing else!