When I started cooking Osso Buco, it was a sumptuous meal on a beer budget. The Veal Shanks at the center of the dish were afterthoughts at the butcher’s counter. It’s hard to imagine but I think they ran about $4.99 a lb. at most. Andrew is fond of pointing out that I have no concept of how many years ago that was and that in 25 years almost everything is more expensive. But, like fresh tuna, which at one point was practically given away, the huge popularity of this Italian masterpiece has upped its price mightily. Osso Buco means ‘bone with a hole in it’ and it’s gotten to be a very expensive bone. But it’s a triumph of taste—the meat is tender to the bone, the sauce is filled with fresh vegetables stewed to perfection in red wine and tomatoes—even the marrow in the center of the bone is a guilty pleasure. The recipe hails from Lombardy, the region that’s home to Milano, where it is classically served atop risotto. Since risotto needs constant attention until the minute it is served, I use mashed potatoes instead. Because I find Osso Buco is one of the greatest ideas for weeknight dinner parties. We were entertaining my nephew, Michael and his wife, Valery who were here from Canada. Leaving out the risotto meant I could spend all the time I wanted with them and then take all of about 5 minutes to mash the potatoes. Like so many other braised dishes, this one too improves considerably when left a day or three in the fridge. So it’s perfect to make over on a Sunday afternoon to serve later in the week. I’ve published a recipe for Osso Buco before. So why is this one here?
Tyler Florence, whose recipe for California Osso Buco this is, used to be the House Beautiful Foodie in Residence. And that's where I found this recipe. The Chef, who is one of my all-time favorites, is best known for his “Ultimate” Recipes. The “Ultimate” Mac and Cheese, the “Ultimate” Fried Chicken—his Ultimate recipes number over a hundred. I’d call this the Ultimate Osso Buco except that he didn’t. And in all honesty, I had to read and re-read the recipe to figure out what made it Californian. It has every ingredient of my Italian recipe although it switches out the orange peel and replaces it with a brilliant flash of lemon flavor. It uses San Marzano tomatoes, the Italian standard for great tomatoes. But the Gremolata is more complex. The classic citrus peel and parsley has been elevated with the addition of pine nuts, a single anchovy filet and some garlic. Don’t be tempted to omit it. It adds the finishing touch to the dish. But still, what makes this Californian? Turns out the entire descriptor hinges on using a whole 750 ml bottle of California Zinfandel. And can I tell you something else? I didn’t have any on hand but I have a wine cellar full of Super Tuscans. So this intensely delicious dish isn’t really Californian at all…unless you count the lemon and the orange. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Tyler Florence’s California Osso Buco with Classic Gremolata
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (2-inch) pieces veal shank
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
Zest of 1 lemon, peeled off in fat strips with a vegetable peeler
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bottle California Zinfandel
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
For the Gremolata:1/4 cup pine nuts
1 anchovy fillet, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Put the flour on a large plate and season it with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Dredge the veal shanks in the seasoned flour and then tap off the excess. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat and hit it with a three-count of oil. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan to melt. Add the veal shanks and sear on all sides, turning carefully with tongs, until they are a rich golden brown all over. Drizzle a little more oil into the pan if needed. Remove the browned veal shanks to a plate.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Add the onion, celery, carrots, lemon zest, garlic, bay leaves, and parsley to the same pot and cook over medium heat, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook the vegetables until they start to get some color and develop a deep, rich aroma, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Nestle the veal shanks back into the pot, add the wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the beef broth and tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go in the pot, and stir everything together. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise the veal for two hours, removing the lid after 1 1/2 hours. The sauce should be thick and the veal tender and nearly falling off the bone. Discard the bay leaves. At this point, if not serving the dish immediately, carefully remove each shank and put them a large storage container in one layer. Spoon the sauce over all and refrigerate until serving.
5. Remove the container from the fridge, gently lift the individual Osso Buco and put them in a large skillet to reheat over medium low heat.
6. Make the gremolata: Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant and golden, six to eight minutes. Cool the pine nuts, then finely chop and place in a mixing bowl. Fold in the minced anchovy, the minced garlic, the orange zest and the parsley.
7. Serve the osso buco over mashed potatoes in shallow bowls sprinkled with some of the gremolata.