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.
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!