We grew up with shanks. They were poor peoples’ food in the fifties and sixties; disappeared almost completely, like crumbed brains, in the seventies and eighties and then returned, triumphant and trendily ‘Frenched’ - in the last ten years or so.
Along with osso buco, which is the same thing cut across the bone, shanks are now a winter staple on dinner party tables and in the pages of food magazines.
In posted my favourite lamb shank recipe here – a delicious one with barley - less than two months ago so today I will share with you my current osso buco recipe (it evolves, you see):
Easy osso buco.
Coat the meat – four medium pieces of beef or veal shank cut across the bone - in seasoned flour. (I put the flour into a plastic bag, add the meat, seal the bag and give it a good shake – perfectly coated.)
Seal the meat in olive oil and set aside. Finely chop an onion and finely dice a carrot and a large stick of celery. Add these to the same pan and sweat them over a very low heat for a few minutes until they absorb some of the flavour, then add two cups of stock and a bay leaf and cook for another minute or two. Add a can of diced tomatoes or some puree. Add a teaspoon of sugar to counteract the acid.
Pour all of this over the meat in a large pot. Use the stock to swish out all the flavoursome bits remaining in the pan from the meat-browning stage. Add a little oregano if you have it. Cook for several hours on a very low heat.
Serve with a gremolata of parsley, garlic and grated lemon peel. Or not. Pour a shiraz. Or a merlot. Whatever.
Some random observations and hints on osso buco
- While osso buco is often done in a Dutch oven, I usually do it on the stove top in a big heavy pot.
- I am using less tomato than I used to. It’s just a preference.
- Sometimes I add wine, sometimes not.
- Sometimes I add orange juice and grated peel, sometimes not.
- I prefer it with olive-oily mash – try a combination, maybe pumpkin and zucchini, maybe potato and parsnip. The latter is nice and sweet.
- For a real luxury, make some big home-made gnocchi with potato, ricotta and egg and serve the osso buco over that. Dreamy.
- Don't waste that leftover sauce! Make a ragu. Add a can of tomatoes and some peas or some roasted red capsicum, cook it down and serve it over egg noodles, or more of the home-made gnocchi, with lots of cheese on top.