Yes, I know that that some will complain that I used one word instead of two (osso buco) and others will question the absence of an additional c in buco (bucco) but let’s be honest, how many of you speak Italian and can cook or even know the origins of this classic dish (let alone all three!!!!!)?
For those who didn’t understand the title, this recipe contains a number of obvious deviations from what is considered the ‘classic’ Milanese recipe.
I’m using beef rather than veal, for one. There’s no traditional (and rather pretentious) gremolata for another. There’s also a distinct and obvious lack of celery and it isn’t served over steaming risotto alla milanese. In fact, and for the record, what one considers ‘classic’ is by no means original, considering the absence of the humble tomato from Europe until the late 1800’s. So if you consider yourself a purist or foody, or some other self-appointed gastronomic afficianado, you have surfed to the wrong shore.
Moan away but this dish is created within the tradition of so many great Italian peasant dishes, with what I have lying about in the fridge, which amounts to carrots and onions, and served with mashed potatoes.
Seal the meat and set aside. Rough chop a couple of onions and carrots and sauté them in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a good sized knob of butter, until the onion is golden brown. Add several crushed cloves of garlic for the final few minutes. Peel, top and tail then place the flat of your knife on top and slap. This results in a nicely crushed clove but still intact to survive the cooking process. This is where one would normally add a couple of stalks of celery but I don’t have any today. If you have them and are dead posh, chop them into half centimeter (that’s 5mm) bits and chuck into pan.
Throw a couple of tins of tomatoes into your slow cooker or a suitably sized oven dish, followed by the onion and carrot (and celery if you have) then add the meat. I couldn’t fit the several pieces I needed to feed a large (ish) family into the pot, so I cut the meat away from the bone. I still included the marrow-filled pieces of bone as this adds a unique richness to the overall flavour. Chocolate powder has the same effect of enriching meaty dishes without over-powering and as a joyous bonus, gives snobs the shits.
Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and the same of dried thyme, add four or five large bay leaves and cover with beef stock.
Don’t ask me why, probably to enrage the purists further, but I almost added a good shake of Hungarian paprika but the result would have been too sweet with the tomatoes and paste shouldering that mantle adequately. The missus hails from Bologna and certainly frowns upon this particular personal touch but then she burns spaghetti Bolognese so who the [insert favourite expletive] is she to tell me what to do? On the subject of tinkering, you have the option to add a glass or so of red wine at this stage. If you have but prefer not to add it, just drink it.
Cover and chuck in the oven on about 160°C for between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 hours.
I have no idea what temperature my slow (ish) cooker runs at but it bubbled away nicely for about three and a half hours (maybe 180 to 220). I stirred it gently several times and seasoned accordingly. I may even have dipped the odd slice of crusty baguette. ‘Tasty French bread’ would suit better but we all know that it is impossible to find anywhere North of Dunkirk or South of Perpignan.
If you are using the stove top, bring to the boil and then turn down very low, simmering for an hour and a half or until the meat starts crumbling and falling away from the bone.
Tip – Should your meat start to break down but the sauce remains too liquidy, remove it (the meat, der!) along with whatever chunky ingredients come with it. Turn the heat up to medium/high until the sauce has reduced to the required consistency and return whatever you removed. Don’t remove liquid as this contains the liquified bone marrow which gives this dish it’s fantastic flavour.
As usual I haven’t given precise measurements because it will depend on how many shanks you are cooking. Offering up a detailed and precise recipe for a family of seven probably won’t help you much but if you have specific questions, ask away. As a general rule, though, aim to cover your ingredients by up to an inch of liquid and drink plenty of good red wine.