Anne Freeze of Columbus recently made ossobuco for the first time and took a photo, above, of her results. She shares some thoughts about her process. Photo by: Courtesy photo
March 29, 2017 10:45:34 AM
I'm reporting in to say that the night of ossobuco (or osso buco) was wonderful. I've never cooked it and never had it, so this was a double experience. Beef or veal shanks are browned and then slow cooked with carrots and onions and celery in a braising liquid of beef broth, white wine and tomatoes. True to my nature I read four or five recipes to glean an idea of the basics of the dish. I usually do this to see what the recipes have in common. Then I decide what sounds best to me and move on, sometimes adding this or that from one recipe to another. I try to include reading either my "Cook's Illustrated" cookbook or their website.
Christopher Kimball started Cook's Illustrated (CI) magazine some years ago. It is always 30 pages long and never accepts advertising. The magazine now publishes cookbooks as well as having a TV show on PBS called "America's Test Kitchen." They test and test and report on recipes and why certain techniques work or don't work.
What was interesting to me is that all the sources except CI had the shanks tied and then lightly floured and browned in a Dutch oven or similar pan. CI reported that their tasters had remarked that the meat was "gummy," as the floured coating didn't stay on during the wet braising. Hmm ... Well, I ignored that and went with the Julia Child of Italian cooking -- Marcella Hazan and her "The Classic Italian Cookbook," published in 1988. I've probably had it that long.
I love her way with words. At the end of the ossobuco (the Italian spelling is one word) recipe, she remarks about the traditional topping of gremolada, a mix of garlic, lemon peel and parsley: "Tradition deserves respect, but art demands sincerity, and cooking is, above all else, an art."
She goes on to say that gremolada overwhelms the balance of the dish, but if you must have it, she gives you the recipe.
The ossobuco that most Americans are familiar with is cooked in the style of the city of Milan. There is also a Trieste style which incorporates anchovy fillets. As there is ossobuco Milan style, there is also risotto, Milan style. And, that is what my cooking partner, Jack, and I made that evening. Risotto is Italian for rice, and to make the dish, risotto alla Milanese, it is imperative that you use Italian Arborio rice. The rice was once only grown in the area around the town of Arborio in the Po Valley. It is now grown in the U.S. as well. The grains are smooth, rounded and short. They are very starchy and when cooked slowly and stirred constantly, they release that starch: The result is a rich creamy dish known simply as risotto. There are short-cut methods for this, but I discovered that when Jack and I took our time (and turns stirring), the dish was far superior to the quick method I had used before.
So, it was a fun evening with friends, cooking and learning. Our hostess, Laurie, had made a whiskey chess pie to finish the meal. I'll try and get the recipe for the next column.
RISOTTO, MILAN STYLE
1 quart homemade meat broth or 1 cup canned chicken broth mixed with 3 cups water
2 tablespoons diced beef marrow, pancetta or prosciutto
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or yellow onion
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups raw Italian Arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron or ½ teaspoon chopped whole saffron, dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot broth or water
Salt, if necessary
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
(Source: Marcella Hazan, "The Classic Italian Cookbook")