Sunday, July 26, 2009

Osso Bucco

I'm not a big meat eater... however , there are meat dishes that are hard to resist. Like the Osso Bucco. Best when tender and fall-off-the-bone. It's the slow cooking process that allows all the ingredients' flavors meld into one yummy stew.

For me, it's not even the meat that gives me the oomph, but the topping that gives the kick of aroma and flavor that is divine-- called "gremolata".
1 kilo of good quality beef shank. (More meat than bone, ok?)
I find that the most consistent in meat quality is Montana at S&R.
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 onions, finely chopped
about 3-4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 big can or a tray of button mushrooms, finely chopped.
(If I find oyster mushrooms in the supermarket chiller, I get them,too)
Optional: 1 c red wine
1 can of dice tomatoes, or stew whole tomatoes
1 can of good quality tomato sauce
Salt and Pepper

Zest, finely chopped from 2 lemons
1 cup of sweet basil leaves, stems removed
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

This is such an easy dish which for me requires little skill. If you happen to have a slow cooker lying around, you pretty much leave everything to simmer.

If not, here's the typical way: Heat a deep pot with 1/4 c olive oil, saute onions and celery, till onions have become transparent. Add mushrooms and carrots and saute for about 3 minutes more. Then, add the shank. Allow the meat to turn light, then add water until it is submerged. Add red wine and put on high heat till it boils. (While it is optional, I highly suggest you use red wine. When you find that you have leftover wine, don't throw it away. It's also good when cooking fabada) Once boiling, simmer on low, low heat. Let it cook until tender, which is about 1 1/2 to 2 hours later.

By then, add tomato sauce and can diced tomatoes. (If you happen to have the stewed tomatoes, simply mashed them in the pot) Add salt and pepper and simmer until sauce is thick.

In the meantime, get the zest of 2 lemons and finely chop it, likewise with the basil leaves. (After washing the basil leaves, best to remove the excess water with a salad spin dryer. If you don't have, here's a tip: put the leaves in the middle of a tea towel, get the corners together and spin it round and round. Smart,huh?) Likwise, chop the garlic and simply mix all 3 ingredients in a bowl. Put a lid on it, to keep the aroma concentrated. Let it do its magic later.

Serve with steaming rice or top on pasta. While it is hot, sprinkle the gremolata on top and you will immediately smell the sweetness of the basil, alongside the faint, pungent smell of garlic and the fragrant citrusy lemon. Once mixed-- I just enjoy the sauce with my eyes closed.

This dish is all you need. Throw in a first course salad just to get a balance meal.

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