Taking on braising big boned pieces of meat can feel like you have just been handed the ropes of a sailboat on the open sea with nothing but thin soled boots to get you to the other side.
Don’t worry about it. First of all, you are in a kitchen. There is no figuring out how to collect fresh drinking water from the eyeballs of large fish in case you get caught in some kind of crazy storm. The panic that comes with osso bucco is way more manageable.
how to sear
how to get the meat to soften up
the low, nagging hum of how to get that depth of flavor that will make you feel like it wasn’t a mistake paying all of that money for a piece of meat.
Start with your stock. Buy organic wings and bring them to the boil in plenty of water with a few stalks of celery, a carrot, a peeled onion, a leek, half of a seeded tomato, a garlic clove, bay leaf, parsley sprig and thyme sprigs. Let that go for at least an hour with a spill of olive oil, or butter if you don’t have good olive oil. (Get some good olive oil.)
Now the sear. Dust the shanks with flour. Give them a good slap so that no more flour than necessary sticks to the meat. Season the shanks on all sides with kosher salt. Kosher salt will give you the most control when you pick it up with your fingers; you are looking for a nice even coating. Get a heavy sauce pan hot on a medium to high flame. Give it a spill of olive olive where the meat will sit. Add the meat. Don’t touch or prod it or push it around. Just let it sit for a few minutes. If you have a nice sized pan, you may be able to get two or three cuts in there, but you don’t want to overcrowd. Now take a peek underneath. You are looking for a deep chestnut color. When you are sure you have it, flip and sear the other side. You may have to give the pan another spill of olive oil. When all the pieces are done, arrange in a roasting pan. Mop out the sauce pan with a piece of paper towel, using a pair of tongs. Dab the pan, leaving the crusty bits. Add a carrot, a stalk of celery, a clove of garlic, and a half an onion per 3 pounds of meat. When the vegetables are starting to stick to the pan, give them about 1 cup of delicious, deep red wine. Nothing sweet. Add about another cup of water, and bring to a simmer. Pour everything over the osso bucco in the roasting pan, adding a few sprigs of thyme, a few sprigs of sage and a bay leaf. Cover with parchment to fit the pan, and aluminum foil. Roast at 350 degrees.
Now you are going to make the soffritto, that will saute, watched closely, for about 40 minutes over a medium flame.
Finely chop two peeled carrots, 4 celery stalks, and two medium yellow onions. Saute in good olive olive oil with two cloves of smashed garlic, a sprig of sage, sprigs of thyme, and a sprig of parsley, until they completely collapse under the pressure of your tooth with no resistance. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove the bucco from the oven. Add stock to come about a third of the way up the meat, and all of your soffritto. Remove the large vegetables. Turn the meat over, and re cover. It will need about 2 and half hours total of cooking time, so at this point, you have about an hour and a half left. Check a few more times before it is done. I like to cut a small piece from one of the shanks when it is getting close, to make sure that it is fork tender. When you are there, remove the meat and set aside. Skim the fat from top of the sauce in the pan taste. It may need a little more wine for a bit of sharpness, or it may need a little stock to ease it up a little. You can mount it with a piece of cold butter to make it satiny smooth. Taste again. Pour over the meat and serve with a saffron risotto.