If you’ve ever eaten in a fine Italian restaurant, you would surely have seen Ossobuco or Osso Buco on the menu. Traditionally speaking, Ossobuco (Ossobuco in bianco), a dish native to Milan is made with veal shank and vegetables and is cooked in a mixture of white wine and broth. It’s flavoured with cinnamon, bay leaves and gremolata (a very finely chopped mix of flat-leaf parsley, garlic and lemon peel). In Italian, Ossobuco means “bone with a hole” which describes the marrow bone located in the centre of the generally tough and fibrous leg meat.
For this recipe, I’m going to use beef instead of veal for the simple reason that I want a very rich beef flavour in the end. As I mentioned, Ossobuco refers to the cross section of bone in the centre of the cut of meat. This is a marrow bone and as the meat cooks, the marrow softens and becomes quite buttery. We’ll talk more about this below.
I used the word braised in the title of this post and for a good reason. Braising is a cooking technique that involves two types of cooking; dry heat and wet heat. When braising anything, especially meat, you begin by frying it over very high heat in order to sear the surface. The meat is then placed in a stew pot or casserole where liquid is added to cover most of it and it cooks on low heat for a long period of time.
So what exactly does braising accomplish? Tougher cuts of meat are generally the fibrous parts of the animal where the muscles were used extensively during the course of its life. They are high in collagen content and when they are cooked quickly, this toughens and gives you a cut that’s very tough and chewy which is less than desirable. By allowing the meat to cook for an extended period of time, you give the collagen a chance to break down and convert to gelatine, a substance that’s also naturally found in bone, as the meat tenderises. In the image above you have an example of the colour you’re wanting after having seared the meat. Be sure not to allow it to brown too deeply or to harden to a crust as no mater how long you cook meat that’s been over-seared, it will never soften up. A light golden hue on the meat suffices.
When the meat has been fried, continue on to lightly fry the vegetables, all of them except for the potatoes. Frying the vegetables prior to cooking them in the stew pot will deepen and change their flavours dramatically giving you a richer flavour in the stew. Place the meat and the chunks of raw potato in the pot first and add in the lightly fried vegetables over top. Click on the image to view the full recipe now!
It’s now time to prepare a roux of flour and butter and to create the wine and beef broth gravy in which the meat will stew (you can refer to the recipe now to learn how to create a roux; click here). Because I only salt and pepper and don’t dredge my meat in flour before frying it in this recipe, the roux is important in order to give the gravy more body and consistency.
Bake the beef Ossobuco in a preheated 170C (340F) Fornetto and be sure that the stew pot is centred in the oven by either moving the rack up or down. Click on the image for further details about the Fornetto Stew Pot.
Bake for at least 3 hours without opening the door and after the 3 hours have elapsed, test the meat by trying to pull it away from the bone. If the bone falls away from the meat easily, it’s done. If not, place the lid back on the pot and continue cooking the stew checking it regularly until the meat is completely tender and done.
After having stewed the entire mixture, you’ll notice that the vegetables will have fallen, rendered much of their liquid and added to the wine and broth mixture, leaving you with a flavourful and rich gravy to spoon over the meat and veggies when you serve them.
As I stated earlier, the collagen in the meat will have broken down during cooking and will leave you with incredibly tender meat that will pull apart or cut with a fork with ease!
My favourite part of Ossobuco, and this rings true for very many people, is the buttery marrow inside the bone. There isn’t very much of it, that’s the only downside in fact however, spread like butter on bread and sprinkled with rock salt, it’s a huge treat. Don’t screw your nose up at it without having tried it first. It’s very delicate in flavour and absolutely delicious!
There you have it, Ossobuco done with beef and red wine. Nothing could be further from the traditional Milanese veal version but there are also very few things that beat this particular beef stew! Serve it up with a side of your favourite greens and crusty bread on the side.
You’re in for a treat. Enjoy!