Veal Osso Buco minus the Veal and add Beef Shank or “How I Finally Found My Grandma Rohwer’s Pot Roast”

Have you ever had one of those dishes that you just can’t forget and you can’t ever find a recipe to recreate the same flavors and aromas?  Well, this blog is about just such a dish – Veal Osso Buco as published on page 145 of Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s cookbook titled:  Collards & Carbonara (2013).  This book was given to me by my son Trevor as motive for me to relearn how to savor my food after a long battle with cancer that took my appetite away.  It was the photo that immediately caught my attention.  It struck a distant memory and raised my hopes that this may finally be that dish, the one that I remember so well from my childhood.

So I read the instructions, drooled over the photo, used the ingredients list to make my weekly shopping list, and began researching where I might find veal in Iowa City (which I did not find so I substituted a Beef Shank Steak).  Which by the way must have been a Beef Fore Shank as it was bone-in and my local HyVee Butcher suggested it would make a good substitute for the Veal in an Osso Buco (which in Italian means “bone with a hole”).  The fore shank is in the front leg area of the beef (see image below) and according to Wikipedia needs to be cooked a long time as it is a highly used muscle and tends to be tough and sinewy.

Veal Osso Buco
Veal Osso Buco RecipeImage

I also realized I needed to read how to make the Beef Stock (page 231), Gremolata (page 145), and Saffron Risotto (page 108).  So my list of ingredients grew longer the more I read.

For the Beef Osso Buco I needed:

  • 4 veal shanks, about 2 lb (1 kg) total
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 mL) olive oil
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups (16 fl oz/500 mL) dry red wine
  • 4 – 5 cups (32 – 40 fl oz/ 1 – 1.25 L) Beef Stock (see page 231)
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns

For the gremolata I needed:

  • Zest of 1 lemon, cut into thin strips or finely grated
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Leaves from 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped or left whole
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Saffron Risotto (see page 106)


 

“Veal Osso Buco reminds me of my dad.  In the first year that AMIK was open, we were at my dad’s house and he made this dish for Sunday supper.  Suddenly, the light bulb in my heat went off just as it had when I was in Italy:  Sometimes food is meant to stay simple.  If you focus on the technique of cooking, and stay true to the ingredients and flavors that are native to the place where you are, food can warm your soul like nothing else.  A humble dish made from the heart is better than a fancy dish made to try and impress people.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the idea of the dish that we fail to pay attention to the dish itself.  I went home that night and wrote myself a note that I keep on my desk to this day:  “Ask yourself, what is the point of this dish?” The answer always helps focus my cooking” – Michael

So as I was seasoning the flank steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and warming the Dutch oven over high heat so I could add the olive oil, and I started asking myself “what is the point of this dish?”.  And as I continued following the instructions to add the shanks when the oil was hot and cook them until brown on all sides (about 5 minutes) I started to remember the aroma and I started getting hopeful that this was finally the dish I had been searching for all these years.  I took the shanks out of the Dutch oven and set them aside while I added the celery, onion, and carrot and sautéd them until they were lightly browned (about 5 minutes).  Then when I stirred in the tomato paste and sautéd the whole mixture for a few more minutes – my mind burst into memories of a kitchen long ago where my Grandma Rohwer was in her “farm wife apron” doing the exact same thing I was doing right that minute.  Only her tomato paste was from her own home grown garden while mine was on sale at HyVee.  Then I became a little emotional as I realized this was the point of the dish – to savor the memories!  I ended the process as described in the cookbook by stirring in the wine, stock, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns, and water to cover the shanks.  Then I no longer needed the recipe as my body followed what my mind was remembering –  I put the cover on the Dutch oven and put it in the oven on 300 degrees F (that’s 150 degrees Celsius and if you ask my mom she can tell you how to convert from one to another and why the formula works) for 3 hours to braise until the meat is tender.

While the meat was in the oven braising (which by the way I had to look up as I didn’t do much “fancy cooking” when I was growing up on the farm in western Iowa – and braising means “pot roasting”) and I realized I was indeed making my grandma’s pot roast!  And as I waited anxiously for the 3 hours to pass  I started the Saffron Rissoto bringing back yet  another set of memories as the first time I made Rissoto was with my aunt Margie. As I stirred consistently for 40 minutes, I remember her saying that “it takes a lot of effort, but it is so worth the work!” and it was!  Adding the Saffron and the secret ingredient that you will have to discover on your own when you buy the cookbook made it extra savory with the Beef Osso Buco.

So in one afternoon I got to reconnect with two precious memories; one of my Grandma Rohwer making her delicious pot roast and one of my Aunt Margie teaching me the importance of attention to detail in order to make a savory Risotto.  So the point of this dish was to savor some fond memories of two loved ones now lost and share a dish I had long lost with two loved ones still here.  And the final product – well here is a photo; judge for yourself!  And yes, that is home made bread – I just couldn’t resist!

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Grandma Rohwer’s Pot Roast and Aunt Margie’s Rissoto reborn as Andrew and Michael’s Veal Osso Buco and Saffron Risotto!

 

Chicken Cacciatore – – WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL-

– WARNING:  THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL-

Chicken butchering is described in this blog post, if you do not like or are offended by that I recommend for you to NOT READ THIS.

As a young girl growing up on a farm in northwestern Iowa during the 60’s and 70’s, I had the opportunity to learn where my food came from first hand.  By that I mean when we had chicken on the menu, I knew exactly where that meat came from because I actually helped catch, dispatch, pluck, clean, and butcher each chicken we ate.  And by ‘catch’ I mean we had to run around the farmyard chasing the free-ranging chickens with a hook to try to catch them by the leg.  When we were successful we would then grab both legs with our other hand.  And by ‘dispatch’ I mean while holding tight to their legs we added a little swinging motion to position their necks between two ten-penny nails hammered into the butcher block and with one swift motion, with a corn knife, removed their head from their neck.  Hopefully you had a good grip on the legs to prevent the headless body from dashing around the farmyard, flapping their wings and spraying blood from the neck on everyone and everything.  So I learned during this part of the process to hold on to the legs really tightly and to move my body away from the flapping wings.  Then after holding the birds upside down long enough to let the blood flow out of their clean-cut necks, we dunked the carcass into boiling water to reduce the tearing of the skin when we ‘plucked’ the feathers.  To learn more about this “scalding and plucking” process click on: Tips for Plucking Game Fowl from Mother Earth News.  After that the carcass was waved around in the air to shake the water out of the feathers and cool it off.  This allowed you to pluck the feathers more easily.  In fact, if the scalding process worked well the feathers could literally be removed by just rubbing the heel of your hand from the legs toward the neck.  After all of the feathers had been removed, the next step in the process was to ‘degut’ the bird.  I can’t even describe all of the steps to this process as it was very complicated so I found a YouTube video that shows how to properly remove the internal organs from a chicken.  If you want to see it go to URL = http://youtu.be/qtQYFQA9jrw.   However, if you ever purchase a chicken and need to remove the internal organs, I highly recommend that you discuss the details with your local Butcher, as it is critical this is done correctly to avoid contaminating the meat.  Although I had a lot of practice, as “Butchering Chickens” was a frequent event at both my grandparents and parents farm, I was not allowed to remove the internal organs until I was more mature approximately 12 or 13.  The last step, which was also really challenging, was to literally butcher the bird to separate whole bird into what we called a ‘fryer’; which means the package contained the legs, thighs, breasts, and back.  This finally leads to the real purpose of my blog today – which is to describe how to turn those legs and thighs into this delicious Italian main dish I found in my Collards & Carbonara cookbook – Chicken Cacciatore.

 

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From Collards & Carbonara Cookbook by Ticer and Hudman

I started with a kitchen full of vegetables that had to be used quickly, and some nice legs and thighs purchased on sale at our local Hy-Vee grocery store meat counter.  If you are like me you will understand that of course I had to look up what cacciatore means and thus I will share what I found out…

According to Wikipedia:  “Cacciatore /ˌkɑːtʃəˈtɔəriː/ means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, often bell pepper, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken (pollo alla cacciatora) or rabbit (coniglio alla cacciatora). The salamino cacciatore is also a small salami, popular amongst Italians.”

I was also connected to this dish after I read the quote at the top of the recipe…Michael [Hudman] said:

THIS HUNTER-STYLE CHICKEN IS A SOUL-SATISFYING DISH.  Both of our grandmothers made a version, and we have long argued over whose was better.  We once cooked it for our staff meal, and it went over so well, and we had so much left over, that we had to do something else with it.  We picked the meat off the bone and made a sauce for gnocchi, which is now the only way Andy likes to eat it.  It’s also good over polenta, white beans, or pasta.  That’s why you should always save leftovers!”

So to make this dish (that served two and made enough leftovers for our favorite One-Step Lasagne recipe on page 50 from a cookbook Trevor’s grandmother Cynthia Anderson gave us called The Best of the Liberated Cook by Beatrice Ojakangas) you need 8 chicken drumsticks, 8 chicken thighs, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, ¼ cup (2 fl. oz./ 80 milliLiter) olive oil, 1 bunch celery (stalks diced and leaves reserved), 2 carrots (sliced), 1 fennel bulb (sliced), 1 yellow onion (sliced), 2 tablespoons of Roasted Garlic (pg 234), 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 cup (8 fl. oz./ 250 milliLiter) dry white wine, 1 can (28 oz. / 875 grams) crushed tomatoes, 1 bunch fresh thyme, 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, 4 cups (32 fl. oz. / 1 Liter) Chicken Stock (page 230),  and Juice of 1 lemon.

After following the well-defined instructions on page 137 in Collards & Carbonara we had legs (or drumsticks as Michael and Andrew call them) simmering for 45 minutes….

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Chicken Cacciatore Simmering in the electric skillet!

And served with popovers and Cream of Brussels Sprouts soup, we have a meal for two, a lunch for each and another meal for three (One Step Lasagna)!  All for about ~ $10!

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Apple-Pear Pie – Oh My!

I am going to work backwards in time as I describe my experiences cooking my way through the Collards & Carbonara cookbook; mainly because I just finished the last piece of their Apple-Pear pie and I can’t get the flavor out of my mind.  First let me say that I know how to make apple pie.  In fact I was elected by my 4-H club to make the apple pie for the Woodbury County Fair Pie Contest.  Each club was charged with entering a pie made by one of the club members.  I had been working all summer to perfect apple pie using apples from the trees on our farm our Grandpa Larson had planted years earlier.  So I vividly remember climbing the trees to select what I thought were perfect apples to use in my pie entry.  To reward my efforts my pie was judged to be worthy to be sold at the fair auction and I felt I had earned the title of ‘master apple pie maker‘.  Then I married a man who hated cooked apples and my apple-pie baking skills faded into the distant past.  Don’t get me wrong – I would order apple pie whenever it seemed like a good dessert choice when we went out to eat but I completely stopped baking them at home.

What changed you wonder – well I had been having such excellent results preparing recipes from the Collards & Carbonara cookbook that I took a big risk and used the nice Bartlett Pears HyVee had on special with some apples I had also purchased (despite the fact that it is not apple season) and suggested making an apple-pear pie.  I trusted that my husband would at least try one piece to be able to comment on the recipe .  To further encourage his enthusiasm I read the introduction Michael made about this recipe.

“We love a traditional apple pie.  Every year in late summer and fall, we eat so much apple pie that we had might as well consider it our daily fruit intake.  For our version of this iconic fruit dessert, we switch up the American tradition a bit:  We use half apples and half pears.” – Michael 

Well since my husband is eager to increase his fruit and vegetable intake he agreed to sample the pie if I made it… so I began by reading the entire recipe and making a list of ingredients I had and those I needed to get.  I love how the cookbook clearly lists all of the ingredients on the left side of the page so I can scan it quickly and make my lists.  In this case I already had everything on the ingredient list which included;

For the Crust:  all-purpose flour, confectioner’s sugar, Kosher salt (which I wasn’t sure why it had to be kosher so that is a question I need to put to my chef son), unsalted butter, and ice water.

For the filling:  Granny Smith apples, Honeycrisp apples, and Bartlett pears (all peeled, cored and thinly sliced which meant I could use my Pampered Chef Apple-Peeler Corer device and my Ace Hardware Pear Cutter/Coorer which really speeds up the time to prepare the fruit and makes it all look so nice and uniform), light brown sugar, all-purpose flour, orange, lemon, ground cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and that Kosher salt again!

For the final step:  unsalted butter, egg yolk, and granulated sugar.

Making the Pie

I carefully read the instructions to make my list of steps; which in the previous recipes I had made required me to go to other pages in the cook book to prepare specific components of the dish.  But for this recipe – everything was all described on the same page.  So to make the pie I:

  1. made the crust in a food processor by combining the flour, sugar, and salt and pulsed a couple of times to mix.  FYI in my pre-food processor days I would do this step with first a fork and then after wedding gifts were given a pastry dough cutter.  I love modern technology!  Then I added butter and pulsed a few more times, poured the mixture in my favorite brown baking bowl, added ice water and mixed with a fork until the dough came together into a rough ball which I turned onto a floured surface and formed into a disk.  Now here is the twist from my normal making pie pastry routine – I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 2 hours (or I could have left it overnight).
  2. preheated the over to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. combined the apples, pears, brown sugar, flour, orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt mixing it well and then let it stand for 10 minutes to “release the juices from the fruit”.
  4. divided the dough into two portions and rolled the first half out into a round ~1/4 inch (6 mm) thick bottom crust.  I placed that into the 8-inch (20-cm) pie pan and rolled out the top crust.  The recipe called for me to cut the top crust dough into strips to make a lattice – but to save time, I just rolled it like the bottom crust.
  5. poured the filling into the pie crust and dotted it with butter.
  6. I covered the filling with the top crust and then trimmed the excess dough and fluted the edges even with the pie pan rim.
  7. brushed the top crust with an egg wash and sprinkled a little sugar on to help with the browning.
  8. baked the pie for about 15 minutes – until the edges of the crust began to turn brown.  Then I was instructed to reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and baked it for an additional 40 minutes.  To ensure the pie was done I tested the apples with a toothpick.
  9. let the pie cool on a wire rack – but I monitored carefully as I wanted to make sure we had a chance to eat fresh warm apple-pear pie!

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And now for the results:  I thought the pie was out of this world delicious!  And I waited, rather nervously, for my husband’s review and breathed a sigh of relief when he said:

“If all fruit pie was like this, I too could meet my daily fruit intake.”  And after the pie was all gone he reflected:  “I liked it cold and hot, and had more than one piece.”

Success!!!! Next I want to make the Peanut Butter and Banana Pie.  I still can’t believe they have shared the recipes of their most popular, signature desserts.  But since it would be a 9 hour drive to get pie – I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth out of the cookbook – oops!  I can’t say that as my book was a gift from my son, the Chef.

Collards & Carbonara

Collards & Carbonara

This link will take you to  the Collards & Carbonara book on Amazon.com so you can order your very own copy.  Having your own copy will both help you create the dishes I am going to share on my blog AND make Andrew & Michael happy that they have sold another cookbook!!!  It is a lovely book and I know you won’t regret the purchase.