Osso buco not-strictly-milanese

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

After a weekend of 37 degrees C a couple of weeks ago, it has rapidly turned autumnish. The doona is back on the bed. I shivered through a day at work when it hit 15 degrees in the afternoon and I had come in stupidly wearing just a T-shirt. The figs on the huge tree in our backyard have finally ripened, and there are enough of them that I’ve been able to eat at least a couple of fresh figs every day, to give some away to friends, and to make this delicious fig, hazelnut and brandy cake.  While I was up the ladder picking figs a couple of evenings ago, I smelled the first wood fire of the season from one of our neighbours’ houses – a little early, perhaps, but I’ll be getting our own chimney swept soon.

When I was at the St Kilda farmers market last weekend, it was chilly, drizzling, almost misty. I had a powerful surge of homesickness for the UK and Ireland! Even though there were stalls there selling the last of the heirloom tomatoes of the summer, in all other ways it felt utterly like autumn was upon us. I stocked up on cold-weather vegetables – cavolo nero, kohlrabi, beetroot – and various bits of meat to go in the freezer for episodes of weekend slow-cooking. One of these purchases was some osso buco from Warialda Beef. The slices were enormous, about 500 g each, dark purple in colour and marbled with fat. Warialda cows are rare breed, grass-fed, and slaughtered at two and a half years, and the meat is then dry aged. And oh my god, it tastes so good. I’ve been more in the habit recently of cooking osso buco in stout, to beef (ha) up the flavour a bit, but since this meat looked so good, I cooked it a bit more traditionally in white wine. It was spectacular. Tender, rich, deeply flavoured – the best osso buco I have ever had.


three large pieces of osso buco, approx 1.4 kg in total
olive oil
2 onions, peeled, quartered, and sliced
2 decent-sized carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
2 sticks celery, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 large glasses white wine
1 tin peeled tomatoes
500 ml stock (chicken or veal)
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large sprig rosemary

1 clove garlic, crushed finely
zest of a lemon
a handful or two of parsley leaves, finely chopped

Season the meat with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Heat some olive oil in a large oven-proof saucepan, and brown the meat on each side. Do each piece separately if they are large – don’t crowd them. Remove the meat and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the oil remaining in the pan, and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the wine, stock, the tin of tomatoes (roughly chop them with a knife in the can before adding), bay leaves, rosemary, and a teaspoon of rock salt (less if using table salt). Stir, then add the meat. The meat should be mostly covered by the liquid.

Put the lid on the saucepan and cook in the oven at about 150 C for 2.5-3 hours, until the meat is extremely tender and the liquid has substantially reduced. I tend to turn the meat over every hour or so to make sure both sides get a go under the liquid. This does make it more likely that the marrow will fall out of the bone, so if you value eating the marrow with a spoon (delicious), you might not want to turn them. It’s almost certainly not really necessary.

Just before eating, combine garlic, lemon zest and parsley to make gremolata, and sprinkle over the meat.

We served this with tubetti pasta because we were too lazy to make the more traditional risotto. It was so, so fine.

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