Ossobuco alla Milanese
Region: Italy, Lombardy
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Ossobuco, cut from the shank of veal, is a classic of Milanese cuisine. The word ossobuco means hollow-bone. This famous dish probably had its origins in a farmhouse during the late nineteenth century and almost certainly did not originally include tomatoes, a New World discovery, which I believe were added by restaurant chefs. It came into its own in the many osterie of Milan, which were traditionally neighborhood restaurants in big cities which catered to the locals of the immediate neighborhood and never to travelers or tourists. Ossobuco (ossobuchi plural) probably is not an old dish. Although it is mentioned approvingly in the fourteenth edition of PellegrinoArtusi’s Scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene published in 1920 ossobuco does not appear at all in the anonymous La vera cucina lombarda published in 1890 for housewives. This leads me to believe that the dish may always have been an invention of an osteria.
Ossobuco is one of the first dishes I ever learned to make. This recipe is the way I first had it, but there seem to be a variety of ways of preparing the dish, and a good number of those recipes don’t include tomatoes. The taste of the veal as it melts away from the bone, the richness of the marrow, and the flavors of the gremolada, a seasoning made of lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and anchovies, is truly memorable. Sometimes the gremolada will contain rosemary and sage too. A special long-handled little spoon called an esattore is used by the Milanese gourmet for digging out the succulent marrow from the bone; you can use a demitasse or baby spoon. Ossobuco is traditionally served on a large platter surrounded by Risotto alla Milanese but goes well with mashed potatoes, too. If you are ordering the veal shank from a butcher ask for 2-inch thick slices from the middle part of the hindshank, not the end which has too little meat and not the foreshank which is not as tender. The veal should braise until the meat could fall off the bone and can be eaten only with a fork. Ask the butcher to leave the skin around the veal to hold it in place to the bone, although that is not essential.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 3 hours
|For the gremolada:|
1. Dredge the veal in the flour, patting off any excess. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter has stopped sizzling but before it turns color, brown the veal shanks, about 5 minutes a side. Pour in the wine and continue cooking until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and turn the veal a few times to mix. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the meat is nearly falling off the bone, about 2 1/2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the gremolada. Mix the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and anchovies. A few minutes before the veal is to be served, sprinkle this mixture over them and turn several times to distribute the flavors.