When Betsy and I are planning a trip these days, one of the first places we look is VRBO (Vacation rental by owner). Basically, it’s a site where owners put up their houses for rent for a few days and you can snag some seriously great places for a lot cheaper than it would cost for hotels. It’s especially good if you are planning a trip with a group of people.
We’ve had two fantastic experiences using the site, most recently when we took a weekend trip to Carbondale. We ended up staying on a really cool family-owned farm.
As it turned out, the owner of the farm owned a small grass-fed beef market in Carbondale called Crystal River Meats. Needless to say, we hit it off pretty quickly!
The thing that caught my eye right away in the shop was some wonderful looking osso buco shanks. I had never actually cooked it before, but I figured I would just braise it for a while and it would probably turn out pretty tasty.
Turns out I was right!
1) Wrap each osso buco shank with butcher's twine to keep it together (optional). Season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2) In a large dutch oven, add olive oil over high heat. Once hot, brown each seasoned shank on each side for 3-4 minutes until they are well-browned. Remove and set aside.
3) Once shanks are browned and removed, add chopped onions, celery, and carrots to the heavy pan. Turn heat down to medium high. Cook veggies for 3-4 minutes, stirring and scraping up any bits. If pan is dry, add another drizzle of oil.
4) Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute or two.
5) Add red wine, beef stock, spices, orange peel, and orange juice.
6) Add osso buco to pot and add enough water to barely cover the shanks. Bring to a simmer on stove. Then cover and braise in a 350 degree oven for 3 hours until the shanks are fall-apart tender.
7) Remove shanks from pot once braised. Strain broth to remove veggie bits. Discard veggies. Return broth to pot and simmer over medium-low heat.
8) Simmer broth for 5-10 minutes until it reduces to a sauce. Add osso buco back to pot.
9) While osso buco braises, prepare gremolata by stirring together ingredients and let sit at room temp until ready. Also prepare egg noodles or polenta for serving.
10) Serve osso buco over polenta or noodles. Spoon sauce over the dish and top with a few spoonfuls of the gremolata.
The Osso Buco
Osso Buco, if you aren’t familiar with it, is basically a cross-section cut of the shank. They tend to have a fair amount of cartilage in them, not to mention a big old bone in the center.
The only real way to cook them, that I know of, is just to braise them low and slow for a while.
One of these shank cuts will easily feed two people, but with this recipe you could braise up to three shanks if you wanted to feed more.
For each shank, it helps to wrap it tightly with butcher’s twine. This just helps it all stay together as it cooks.
Also, season each piece very liberally with salt and pepper.
As with any braise, you want to make sure and brown the meat really well before starting the braise.
Get your dutch oven (or any large, heavy, oven-safe pot) over high heat and add some olive oil. Then toss in your shanks and cook them for 4-5 minutes per side until they are nice and browned.
There will be all kinds of little bits stuck to your pan after you brown the shanks. That’s all flavor!
Turn the heat down now to medium-high and add the celery, onions, and carrots. Let those cook for a few minutes and try to scrape up as much of the stuck bits as you can.
If the pan looks really dry, add another drizzle of oil.
After the veggies start to soften, add in the garlic and tomato paste. Let this mixture cook for another minute or two.
So far this is pretty much the same veggie combo that I use for any braise.
The one thing that we are going to add to this braise that’s a bit different is some orange flavor!
Once your veggies are cooked a bit, go ahead and pour in the beef stock and red wine.
Then toss in the herbs and a few big pieces of orange peel. I used about 1/2 of the orange peel from my orange.
Also squeeze in the juice from your orange.
Not only will the citrus help to break down the beef a bit, it will also keep the flavors nice and bright.
Then just kind of nestle the shank into the braise mixture. I just had one, but you could braise as many as you could fit!
Add enough water to the pot to almost cover the shank.
Bring this mixture to a simmer on the stove top and then cover it. Stick it in a 325 degree oven for about three hours!
Waiting is the Hardest Part
There’s really nothing to do now except wait.
Well, actually, you could make the gremolata while you wait.
If you aren’t familiar with a gremolata, it’s basically a mixture of garlic and parsley. Traditionally, it’s made also with lemon zest, but to keep with the orange thing I used orange zest instead.
This topping is the key to this dish.
Leave it off at your own peril!
Be sure to let this mixture sit for at least 30 minutes so all the flavors can meld.
When the braise is done on your shanks, you can remove them from the pot. They will be falling apart which is great.
It’s basically the best pot roast you’ll ever have.
I recommend straining the sauce left in the pot to remove all the veggies.
All of the flavor is cooked out of them and they are kind of just a mushy mess. So strain them out and you’ll be left with a really delicious sauce base.
Finishing the Dish
While you could serve this as-is, most likely your sauce will be a bit too thin at this point.
So just add it all back to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer for a few minutes and it will thicken very quickly.
Then add the shanks back to the pot so all the flavors can meld and the shanks will stay warm.
At some point, you’ll want to make something to serve the shanks on.
I went with polenta this time around, but Betsy and I both agreed that the polenta was a bit too rich. If I were to make this again (especially in summer) I would just use egg noodles.
Serve a helping of the shank over the polenta with a few spoonfuls of the reduced sauce and the gremolata topping.
This is a pretty hard dish to mess up and while it might look fancy, it’s really just an upscale pot roast.
My favorite part (like with my short rib ragu) is the gremolata topping. It completely makes the dish!
Any osso buco fans out there? It’s kind of hard to find these days…