“Hole in the bone” Osso Buco

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Osso Buco

Although I am not much of a meat eater, there is something about slow cooked braised meats that I find so absolutely satisfying during these cold, bone chilling, winter months. I recently posted a story and recipe from Balthazar’s, a French brasserie in New York, for their famous plat du jour, braised beef short ribs. In this next chapter of the braising trilogy I will pay homage to one of Italy’s most renowned braises: osso buco. It’s a classic Milanese dish usually made with veal shanks cooked in a rich broth that includes tomato and wine. The term osso buco roughly translates to “hole in the bone” or “pierced bone.” Veal shanks are cut into thick slices through the bone. The dish is finished with a lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, mixture called gremolata. I recently prepared osso buco for some appreciative foodie friends. Rather than the usual accompaniment of saffron risotto, I chose to serve the osso buco with the ultimate comfort food, baked polenta topped with a wild mushroom mixture and a delicate touch of truffle oil. I decided to go with a “not your mama’s style of Sicilian red gravy Italian” and began the meal with a fresh fish crudo. The entrée was followed by a roasted beet, black olive and orange salad. Every ingredient of the salad, by the way, was from our local farmer’s market. That makes me, and hopefully the farmers, so happy to eat and shop local. The piece de resistance was the dessert, individual molten chocolate cakes. I kept thinking something low fat would be better and more fitting for our new years resolutions as I developed the menu but the chocolate sirens were calling and I could not resist. In fact I could have eaten 2, and I was really dreaming about having another one for breakfast the next morning. The best part of the meal was the ending, of course, when you get to dig into the bones for the crowning glory, the luscious bone marrow.   Osso buco, like many Italian dishes and other braised meats,  starts with a sofrito – the slow-cooked holy trinity of onions, celery and carrot, also known as a mirepoix. I suggest you tie the shanks before cooking them so that they hold together. Do not omit the light display and most dramatic moment in this process; the deglazing and lighting of the pan with cognac. Gayden, my husband, loves this part. IMG_3475 IMG_3478

  • Eight 2 1/2” thick veal shank pieces, 6-8 oz each, tied with kitchen twine
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup cognac
  • 1 1/2  cups beef broth or veal demi glace
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary,
  • thyme and bay leaf
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • Gremolata
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic


Preheat oven to 350 F. After tying each veal shank, coat each veal shank evenly with flour. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add veal and brown lightly on both sides for 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat. Warm cognac, ignite and pour over veal. Let flame burn out, remove veal shanks from pan and return pan to low heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, carrots and tomatoes and gently sauté. Salt and pepper to taste, add herbs and add veal or beef broth and white wine. Immerse veal shanks in the sauce and place covered pot in the 350 degree oven. Simmer for about 2 hours or until very tender. When done remove veal from pot and reduce pan juices until thickened. Pour over shanks and garnish with gremolata. Great with polenta or a traditional Milanese saffron risotto.



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