Sunday, January 3, 2010

Osso Bucco as a symbol for a great New Year!

May you have an Osso Bucco year! 
In other words, may it be a richly flavored, easy type of year for you!

I love the symbolism of starting a new year. Ken and I are very lucky because we enjoy two New Year’s! We celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year usually sometime in September or October. THAT New Year tradition is filled with honey and challah. The common New Year has always posed a dilemma however. What to eat to symbolize the New Year?

Here in Central PA, my friends and neighbors celebrate with pork and sauerkraut. While we love sauerkraut, especially the homemade version that I get from Dorothy ( a wonderful Mennonite woman) at the Eastern York Farmers Market, we don’t eat pork at all.

I had to think about what kind of year I want 2010 to be. I decided I want it to be a year filled with the living and enjoying of life, rich and flavorful with new wonderful adventures, and tender moments, that started with a sizzling heat! Yeah, that’s it! And the days after are to be even better, more rich and full bodied. Hmmm. Sounds like Osso Bucco to me, so that’s what I made. We had Osso Bucco at a friend’s house down in Florida a few years ago (not for New Year’s) and I’ve never forgotten what a wonderful meal that was. Great conversation, lots of laughter, and a fabulous dining experience put on by our hosts Brad and his wife, Suzy.

Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" probably has the perfect recipe for it. Alas, I don’t have my own copy yet. I’m trying to find one at a used book store. If no luck there I’ll order on sometime the first part of 2010. In the meantime I perused James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. No luck there. Joy of Cooking has a braised lamb shanks recipe but she doesn’t call it Osso Bucco. I finally got online and looked at several recipes, and decided that Giada De Laurentiis' was the recipe that best epitomized what I want in 2010.

Although Giada makes hers with veal shanks, I found some very nice looking lamb shanks at BJs. Lamb is a favorite for Ken and I, and we make it numerous ways throughout the year. The shanks were really meaty and plump and the price was within my budget so I snatched them up!

Giada’s recipe ingredients were perfect for me. I had everything except the fresh parsley. But that I could leave out this time I figured. I wasn’t going out to the store again.

I started by cutting fresh rosemary and thyme out of my little herb garden in the back. That in itself was a minor miracle since we again have snow on the ground! At least this time it only snowed three inches!

Scupper surveying the snow

Here are the ingredients list for Giada’s Osso Bucco

1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 dry bay leaf
2 whole cloves
Kitchen twine, for bouquet garni and tying the veal shanks
3 whole veal shanks (about 1 pound per shank), trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All purpose flour, for dredging
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small carrot, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 stalk celery, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest

I cut the sage leaves so I can dry them, but the rosemary and thyme went into the bouquet garni, along with the cloves and bay leaf. I filled the cheesecloth with the herbs and then tied it all up with butchers twine.

I quickly diced the carrots, celery and onions and set them aside in a bowl. I measured out a tablespoon of tomato paste from the squeeze tube. By the way if you haven’t tried the tomato paste in a tube, do so at your earliest convenience. I love the stuff! I seldom need more than a tablespoon or two at a time and have wasted too many cans of it in the past. Now I buy it in the tubes and keep it in the frig once I’ve opened it.

I went ahead and measured out the Martini & Rossi Vermouth and chicken stock while I was at it. I wanted to be able to move from step to step without stopping.

After taking the lamb shanks out of the package I rinsed them quickly, patted them dry, and trimmed some of the fat. Harking back to my days in Alaska and rendering bear fat, I put the trimmings in the pot and let the fat ooze out as the little pieces of meat became nice and crispy. Yes, I have actually eaten bear, matter of fact we were very happy to have it one winter as that was just about our only red meat that year. That was years ago when I hunted with my former husband. I haven’t hunted in years but still conjure up my cooking techniques from those days every once in awhile.

While the fat was rendering I wrapped each shank with twine to keep the meat on the bones when it became oh-so-tender. I seasoned with salt and pepper, and then dredged in flour. Once I had garnered as much fat as possible out of the gribbins (that is what I call it) I removed them then added olive oil instead of vegetable oil and heated it up. I dropped in the shanks and browned them all over.

Once the shanks were browned I put them on a plate to the side, I dropped the vegetables in and sautéed those until the onions were translucent. In went the tomato paste next and I stirred it until it was blended in. Then it was time to drop in the shanks. I poured in the vermouth and cooked it down to reduce the liquid to half. It doesn’t take long, so I had to monitor it closely. Finally I dropped in the bouquet garni, and added the chicken stock. I felt the College Inn Bold Stock Rotisserie Chicken Broth would be best for this since it is rich, and full bodied.

I brought the liquid up to a full boil and put it into an oven at 325 degrees. Giada says to simmer it on the stove, but Joy of Cooking said to put it in the oven, so I chose J of C for the final part. I checked it about every 20 minutes and did add a bit more broth about half way through. The idea is to keep the liquid about ¾ ways up the shank according to Giada. After about 1 ½ hrs I took it out of the oven and put it on a low burner to keep it warm.

Since I had a batch of “light” semolina” Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day dough (1 cup of semolina pasta flour in place of one cup of All Purpose flour) in the frig I decided to bake a few loaves of ciabatta and serve some with the Osso Bucco.  About ½ hr before taking out the Osso Bucco I cut off a grapefruit and orange size of dough. I quickly flattened the two sections of dough out on the floured counter, and then covered them with plastic wrap that I had sprayed with Pam. I only let them rise for about 20 minutes.

Once the Osso Bucco was out of the oven I turned the heat to 450 degrees, and put my baking stone back in to warm up. Just before baking, I wetted my fingers and quickly and deeply jabbed the risen dough with my fingertips, making sure to go to the ends. Then I spread on olive oil, sprinkled some freshly ground sea salt, and some chopped fresh rosemary on the dough. At last, I slid the parchment paper with the two loaves of ciabatta on it into the hot oven. I poured a cup of water into a pie pan in the bottom of the oven and closed the door. Ciabatta doesn’t take as long to bake as a big loaf of bread, so it was ready after only 23 minutes.

Because I had a variety of some small potatoes in the frig I decided to boil them up while the bread baked. I also took this time to zest a lemon for the final plating.

Once a simple salad and a glass of my homemade Chilean Carmenere/Acabernet Sauvignon 2007 were on the table, I was ready to plate the Osso Bucco.

I had to be careful with the lamb though as once I cut the twine I knew it would want to fall off the bone. So first I scooped out the vegetables with slotted spoon, and put them on the plate, then carefully lifted out the lamb shanks and placed them on top. Using a ladle I poured some of the sauce over the shanks. I cut the twine with a few quick snips, added the drained boiled potatoes, dropped the lemon zest onto the lamb shanks and added two pieces of bread to each plate.

Our dinner was everything I hope 2010 to be; richly flavored, tender and juicy. The fresh bread sopped up the sauce with the added flavor of the rosemary. AHHHHHH.

Dessert was just a dish of vanilla ice cream which Ken drizzled with our chocolate raspberry port.

What a delicious feast and a wonderful way to toast in 2010!  May we all have an Osso Bucco Year! 

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