For March’s Seasonal Saturday (2 Mar) I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite dishes done in the slow cooker. While the basics of Osso Bucco involve slow cooking the bony chunks in some stewy goodness, with wine and stock, at heart it is really all about the veg, and balancing them, with fresh herbs, against the veal.
I’ve always been a fan of this dish, as it reminds me of my Mom’s version, made with oxtail or huge veal shank chunks, so when my partner suggested I try out our slow cooker for an Osso this weekend it wasn’t hard to say ‘yes’. The slow cooker is a great way to build up an appetite as you slowly absorb the aromas and flavours taking shape. Although traditionally a cool-weather dish, it is perfectly acceptable on a rainy summer Saturday as well.
I started my research, as I always do, with a trawl through the internet to get some ideas and find both trad consensus and modernised versions of dishes. I found this one from Julie Goodwin’s website that looked like it had enough for me to start with. I, of course, decided to shamelessly appropriate it and modify some of the flavours to my own taste. I’d often joke with friends that I never cook the same thing twice, since I always love riffing on a theme, adding ingredients and finding new directions. This was no exception. I decided on a few different ingredients, a few little tricks of my own and left myself open for some serendipity at the grocers’.
- Serves: 4
- Time to prepare: 20 mins
- Time to cook: 3–6 hours (slow cooker)
- Veal; Slow cooker.
- 4 large slices of veal shank
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery shanks, some leaves included
- 6 medium shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 cups beef or veal stock. Please get real stock from the grocer and not the dehydrated powder, you will taste the difference and it is not hard to find. You’ll thank me!
- 2 cups white wine. yep, a nice light white will complement the veg before adding to the slow cooker, avoid the temptation to use red.
- 1 x 400ml tin of chopped tomatoes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons rice bran oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup of flour
- fresh oregano, bay leaves
- a fresh chilli or two, if you like it warm
- 3 dried cloves, whole
- chopped celery
- fennel leaves
- fresh lime
The basics of Osso Bucco involve slow cooking the bony chunks in some stewy goodness, with wine and stock very slowly. My first riff on the theme is substituting shallots for onions. I find them complex and somehow deeper in flavour. I always try to buy organic when I can, in this case, the new organic section at Harris Farms, which I always saw as an ethical employer and honest about the food kilometres and seasonality of their stock.
Start with the chopping, getting the carrots, celery, garlic and, in this case, shallots, ready, cut into small diced pieces.
Mix the flour, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper in a deep bowl and lightly dust the shanks, rubbing any excess off them.
In a large iron pan heat the oil till it’s hot and brown the shanks, a minute or 2 each side, to start the heat. Place them in the bottom of the slow cooker and turn it on low, as it takes a while to warm up.
In the same large pan, topped up with a glug or two of the oil, add the chopped veg, and sauté for a few minutes, till the onions and celery gain a bit of transparency. Not too long as you want the veg to stay crunchy, but enough to soften them.
Tip in the white wine and steam of the alcohol for a minute, then the tinned tomatoes, and keep it on the mild heat to bring the lot up to a nice warmth. In the meantime, I ran out to the garden to clip some fresh oregano and bay leaves as well as a couple of chillies. All of these are pretty easy to grow in our herb-friendly climate here in Sydney, so long as you keep them in sight of the kitchen window, to remember to both water and tend them as well as to add to your cooking.
There is no point buying what Anthony Bourdain – my hero of honest cooking – terms “sawdust” (dried herbs from the grocery store) when you can snip a few fresh herbs from your garden or windowsill. Even a square meter of balcony can accommodate a dozen small pots with hardy herbs!
Now add the beef stock, and my other special ingredient, whole cloves, and the veg mixture to the pot and top with a few fennell or sage leaves for a real aromatic depth. You may ant to warn your guests there’ll be a clove or two in there.
Osso Bucco is best cooked slowly, a low heat breaks down the meat and draws out the marrow and blends the flavours without turning the veg to mush. The great thing with a slow cooker is you barely need to keep an eye on it. Although it will cook in 3 hours in a slow cooker on high, I recommend cooking for 5–6 hours on low, until the meat falls off the bone.
Check halfway through and ensure the meat remains completely submerged. Staying inside this mixture will ensure it slowly cooks without losing moisture. I like to fridge it overnight and warm it on low for an hour the next day, great plan if you want it for Sunday lunch without having to start it at 5AM! Some say it tastes even better that way!
For my final departures from the trad, we decided on Arborio rice as the base instead of potatoes. Usually seen in risottos, Arborio is bigger and can be starchier than asian rice, which goes well with the big flavours here. feel free to get some Duchess or other small potatoes if you prefer. For side veg I’d look for green beans, okra or some steamed greens. But for tonight, we’re going for straight veal on rice.
I topped them with my personal version of the Gremolata, mainly because parsley bores me and I always want an excuse to use the limes from our tree in the garden. We’re both fans of fennel, and the flavours continue to compliment the veal. You’re more than welcome to revert to trad Gremolata if you prefer, same proportions, but parsley, lemon zest, olive oil and garlic.
And don’t forget to leave a comment and photos if you make this dish (or another dish for Seasonal Saturday)!