Osso Bucco

I love veal, and if I could eat veal all the time, I would. Unfortunately, its one of those foods that caught something of a reputation that it doesn’t entirely deserve. This makes enjoying it all the more difficult though since not everybody you’re cooking for will approach or even consider veal quite the same way as you (a veal lover, of course). I however, couldn’t hold back the craving any longer and I went right for the veal dish that is one of my all-time favorites: osso bucco.

Osso Bucco plated atop some mascarpone polenta

If you’ve never had osso bucco before, you really have to try it. This is one of those dishes that, I think, always leads to full bellies, happy guests, and clean plates. Why? Osso bucco is a beautiful, Italian preparation of veal that really shows off the unique flavor and tender qualities of the meat with the culinary sensibilities of Italian cuisine.

You start with a thick, tough cut of meat (the shank) with a cross-wise cut of bone running through the center. This is then braised in a delicious sauce that breaks down that shank until it is literally falling off of the bone. The end result is awesome: succulent and incredibly tender meat, a rich, full-flavored sauce enhanced by the veal, and layers of delicate flavors and hidden treats (like marrow! Don’t make that face–just try it! You’ll be very glad you did–its rich like delicious butter). The original version of the dish used no tomatoes, and was instead a white wine-based sauce, and I strongly considered going this route as it would present the veal flavor even more dramatically than the more common tomato-based preparation, but I simply couldn’t help myself since really, there is no going wrong with osso bucco. Next time!

I was also tagged by Nina, so this is my fashionably late entry to the Braisy Chain, hosted by Swirling Notions.

  • 4 veal shanks, cut three inches (or so) thick (this was a bit over 5 lbs, but mine were thicker than the norm)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock (veal stock is ideal if you have it)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 can (~14 oz) whole tomatoes + juice
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • gremolata:
    • 1 clove garlic
    • lemon zest
    • handful of parsely

Beautiful raw veal shanks

Unpackage the veal shanks and take a moment to admire that beautiful meat. You paid good money for it (such a premium for such a tough cut of meat! Don’t ask what this cost me…most typical cuts of veal shank are a bit smaller than these, but I was in veal withdrawal 😮 ), so you need to do these things to psychologically make that unpleasantness go away. 😉 Beautiful marbling, rich color, plenty of marrow in those bones, and as far as meat goes, very sexy stuff. Also take this time to gently pat the veal dry with some paper towels as you snap out of it (dry meat browns better).

Some people like to wrap twine around each veal shank at this point to ensure that it stays well formed during the cooking process. I didn’t bother and things worked out just fine, but just thought I’d let you know.

Season and dredge the shanks in flour

Veal shank is something that requires slow cooking, but as with most braises, the first step is to put some complex flavor and color on the outside of the meat by browning it. So coat the shanks with salt, pepper, and flour, and rub this all over, shaking off any excess.

Brown veal on all sides

Meanwhile, get some oil warmed up in a large pan (I used a Dutch oven–just the right size for this!), just until smoking on medium-high heat. Then, add in the veal, working in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the meat (you want to brown it, not steam it. I did two pieces at a time). Figure about three minutes per side, rotating the shanks so as to brown all sides. Set these aside and continue to admire that beautiful meat. Can you tell I like veal? 😉

Prepare the veggies for the sauce Sauté the veggies to soften them up Add the tomatoes and use the juices to deglaze

So now that the meat is ready for the next step, we need to get going on the sauce. Peel and finely dice the carrot, celery, and shallot. Sauté these (called the soffrito) for about 10 minutes or so in the pan, tossing in a bit of salt to help get the moisture out of them. While you wait on them to soften up, finely mince the garlic and add that to the pan towards the last 2 minutes or so of sautéing time.

Once time is up, add the tomatoes and sauce to the pan, squishing the tomatoes in your hands before putting them in. Give things a stir and let this simmer on medium heat for a few minutes. Also, scrape the bottom of the pan, deglazing with the tomato sauce to get any delicious browned bits off of the bottom and mobilized into the sauce. Take this time to preheat the oven to 325?F.

Return shanks to pan, simmer in sauce

After a few minutes of simmering, return the browned veal shanks to the pan, standing each one so that the side with the larger bone opening is facing up (this is so that the marrow doesn’t all just leak out quickly from the start. You want that treat on your plate later!). Now pour in the wine and let this reduce for about 5 minutes.

You’re almost done…with the active part of cooking. Ideally, you’d have veal stock on hand and you’d use that, but if not, chicken stock will do just fine (it’s what I did). Whatever stock you use, pour it in and add in the herbs. Give things a gentle stir and raise the heat to get the sauce up to a boil and then turn the heat off, put on the cover, and transfer the Dutch oven into the real oven for a minimum of 1.5 hours.

Check on the meat every 15-30 minutes just to see how things are going in there. Ideally, the liquid should remain about 3/4 of the way up each piece of veal, and if it seems to go significantly below that, top it off with some more stock so as not to scorch the veal in the open air. It is unlikely that you’ll need to worry about this, but better safe than sorry. Braising needs liquid and veal shank needs braising, so by the transitive property, Stewart made Huckabee. 😉

Prepare the gremolata Thicken the sauce

After about an hour of oven time, turn each piece of veal over so that both sides of meat get their time swimming in the sauce. The veal is done cooking when the meat is falling off of the bone and fork tender, so allow for extra time past the 1.5 hour mark. For me, it was somewhere between 2 and 2.5 hours, but it depends on the amount and cut of meat you get. Good things come to those who wait.

While you’re waiting on things to finish in the oven, you can prepare the garnish/topping: gremolata. This is a very simple mixture that brings a nice balance to the final dish, despite how unbalanced it may sound. Very finely mince a clove of garlic, the zest of a lemon, and the parsley, and mix all of this together. Yup, that’s it. I know that the idea of uncooked garlic (and lemon zest) sounds like something that would not improve any dish, but I promise you, this actually works really well and provides a subtle flavor that rounds things out. You might be skeptical, but give it a try (not on its own, but on the veal!).

Veal, just done cooking and removed from the sauce

So once the meat is done cooking, get it out of the oven and remove the meat from the sauce, setting it aside. In a small glass, make a cornstarch slurry, mixing the cornstarch and a little bit of warm water. Heat the sauce up on medium-high heat to get it to a steady simmer and slowly mix in the cornstarch slurry until fully incorporated. This will help to thicken the sauce up as it currently is a bit too liquidy. Let this go for 5-10 minutes (or until you’re happy with the consistency, but really, don’t go too long. You don’t want the meat to go cold!).

So now that everything is done, time to dig in. You’ll want to pair this with a simple side dish that isn’t too loud flavor-wise and is good at sopping up any delicious juices running on your plate (and for osso bucco, there will be plenty). There are two typical side dishes that pair beautifully with osso bucco: Risotto alla Milanese, or, the one I chose: mascarpone polenta. I plated by smearing a round of polenta on a plate, standing a shank in the middle with the bone pointed upwards (so you can get at the rich, gelatinous marrow!). I then ladled some sauce atop the shank, so it could drip down and make a nice pool, and then, of course, sprinkled on a bit of gremolata.

If it seems like you have way more sauce than you could possibly use with the meat, have no fear–just bottle it up and save it in the fridge for another day. I’ll put it to use in another dish that I’ll post next week…

But anyways, enough reading–your osso bucco is getting cold. Enjoy!

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44 Responses to “Osso Bucco”

  1. Peter Says:

    Mike, you did Osso Bucco proud! The dish looks fab, lots of sauce for mopping up.

    I hope you ate the marrow too!

  2. Meeta Says:

    Osso Bucco – love it. This looks so yummy. All that gravy and herbs – flavorful for sure. I’ve been tagged for the braising thing too. Just not sure what to make yet.

  3. Pixie Says:

    Now that’s a dish from my past! And exactly how much did it cost you???? lol It looks absolutely delicious Mike, am loving your posts. YUM!

  4. Bubbles0 Says:

    Wow, that looks delicious! Better than your moms, I bet. It took a good while to cook, but I bet you ate it real fast!

  5. Celine Says:

    Never had “osso Bucco” before but this veal looks delicious and yummy with creamy Polenta…( I made some yesterday with heavy cream)always delicious too.

  6. Toni Says:

    Osso Bucco is a favorite of mine, though I’ve never made it myself. There’s a wonderful little Italian restaurant nearby, and I often order it there. The portions are so huge that I usually bring home enough for at least 2 more meals!

    Now you’ve got me thinking that maybe I could actually tackle this one on my own. This looks absolutely fabulous, and perfect for the rainy weather we’re having now!

  7. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    Years ago my father used to cook veal chops on the grill, and they were wonderful. But I admit that I’ve let the “politics” of veal get in the way of my eating it for the past decade or more. I do remember the wonderful flavor of osso bucco, though, so maybe it’s time for me to put veal back on the menu.

  8. brilynn Says:

    We did veal in my butchery class today and cut it on the bansaw for osso bucco. I’ve never actually had it but am looking forward to giving it a try.

  9. Toni Says:

    Oh – Now I see what you did with your polenta! Ooooooooooohh! Fabulous!

  10. Deb Says:

    Hi Mike, I came over to your site via Holler’s. And I came just in time for dinner! No better time than winter for comforting veal. Very handsome indeed!

  11. Nora Says:

    Hey Mike,

    I am drooling! And it’s 9.25am here, not quite dinner time yet. I am certainly an osso bucco fan but only tried making it myself last year. That and shanks were on my list of things to try cooking. I love how these cuts of meat just falls off the bone…wonderful!


  12. Pam Says:

    It is so sad, but I have never eaten this, nor made it. And it looks so good. Fabulous job!

  13. Kevin Says:

    I have never had osso bucco. It looks and sounds really good! I will definitely have to look for the veal shanks at the butchers shop this weekend. Bookmarked!

  14. kittie Says:

    Hi Mike!
    I just stumbled across your blog – looks fab! And I thought I’d say hello from one techie foodie to another :)
    I made Osso Buco recently – but not using the shanks – have to say, your version looks astounding!

  15. Swirling Notions » Rounding Up the Braisy Chain #2 Says:

    […] from Mike’s Table sent in a gorgeous Osso Bucco, complete with step-by-step photos, interesting conversation and the classic gremolata […]

  16. swirlingnotions Says:

    I’ve got your osso bucco up on the Braisy Chain, Mike. Thanks again!

  17. Bellini Valli Says:

    If I hop on a plane will I be in time for dinner Mike 😀

  18. Terry B Says:

    This sounds insanely good, Mike! Looks beautiful too. The gremolata is not unlike Argentinean chimichurri sauce, which does wonders for a nice steak, so I’m sure the gremolata is indeed a great addition.

    Regarding thickening with cornstarch, don’t cook it too long once you add it; oddly enough, if you do, it starts thinning out again.

  19. Hélène Says:

    Another nice looking dish! Looking good.

  20. RecipeGirl Says:

    Hi Mike,
    This looks great!

    Hey, you’ve been tagged for a MEME if you participate in that sort of event!

    Please see my blog for details :)


  21. Nina Says:

    I only saw your occo bucco post now,so sorry I missed the invite. The cobbler looks just as amazing.

  22. mike Says:

    Peter — thanks! I did indeed–very tasty stuff!

    Meeta — agreed, such a wonderful gravy. Thanks! And I’m sure you’ll figure something out, hope to see you in the next BC.

    Pixie — thanks! I’m very glad to hear it :-) Sadly, and let’s keep it within this room, the meat alone cost around $45. 😮 Shhhh!

    Bubbles — haha, thanks, and you leave my mother out of this! lol 😉

    Celine — welcome and thank you! You should jump on the first opportunity to try osso bucco–I would very highly recommend it!

    Toni — I’ve always loved it as well and its one of those rare treats. If its on a menu, I’ll order it, but outside of that, a rare thing but for no good reason. But as far as preparing it goes, its not very hard. I’d strongly encourage you to try it–definitely a good rainy day dish. Or sunny day. Or any day. 😉

    Lydia — I’m sorry to hear it and I can understand. I think its the few bad seeds out there in the industry that unfortunately give the entire industry a bad name and some amount of reform to fix that would be a good thing. I hope osso bucco can bring you back! 😉

    brilynn — that sounds like it would be an interesting class! What are you studying? My butcher wasn’t in a great mood when I picked up my shanks and tried to just hand me the entire shank whole, but since I don’t have a big saw at home, that might have been tough to work with, lol. I hope you give this a try!

    Toni — thanks! :-)

    Deb — thanks and welcome! I hope you keep visiting. :-) Agreed, something about veal makes for perfect winter food. Comforting, hearty, and delicious.

    Nora — Haha, yea, just slightly early in the day for veal. There needs to be a breakfast-friendly way to enjoy osso bucco. 😉 I’d definitely like to experiment with other kinds of shanks in the future as this is a delightful cut of meat. So tender and succulent.

  23. mike Says:

    Pam — thanks! You definitely have to try it on the first chance you get. It is a very tasty dish!

    Kevin — thanks! I hope you get a hold of the shanks, I think you’ll really enjoy this. :-)

    kittie — thanks and welcome, I hope you keep visiting. :-) Just curious, what cut of veal did you use in yours? Granted, I think just about every cut of veal would be delicious…

    swirl — thanks! I’ll be sure to keep entries coming for future roundups. You’ve got me in braise mode, now!

    Bellini — haha, just give me a call! As long as you bring some of your food, too! 😉

    Terry — thanks! :-) I was indeed suspicious of the gremolata at first and really hesitant to add it, since really, did I want raw garlic to come in and just throw everything off. The chimichurri does sound similar and I’ll have to try it out as you described on your site. Also, good tip about the cornstarch–I don’t use it terribly often, and I suppose it shows. 😉

    Helene — Thanks! :-)

    RecipeGirl — thanks! I’ll do my best to get a response posted soon…

    Nina — ah, no worries and thanks! :-)

  24. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    Greetings from Sarasota! Boy, those are some gorgeous hunks of veal! I love your recipe. I make osso bucco almost the same way. The polenta is a great idea. I don’t care much for rice, so I usually swap out orzo. I’m definitely going to try this.

  25. mike Says:

    Susan — thanks and welcome–another Floridian! :-) I’m glad you like it and orzo sounds like another great combination. Anything to keep a single drop of sauce from going to waste. 😉 Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you again!

  26. Lasagna Bolognese from Mike's Table Says:

    […] use some of the leftovers, resulting in an incredibly rich and hearty bolognese sauce composed of osso bucco sauce (oh so delicious!), a ground veal/olive/rosemary mixture, Italian sausage, tomatoes, and some other […]

  27. Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Port Cherry Sauce from Mike's Table Says:

    […] and dried cherries with a sprinkling of garlic, lemon zest, and mint (mint gremolata! Think like osso bucco) on […]

  28. daave Says:

    Mike, I have made this 4 times now, all based off your recipe and each time the crowd has loved it, none more so than myself. The best thing about osso bucco is that you don’t really have to stick 100% to the recipe as far as quantities go. Meals that allow you that, to me are the way to go.

    You got yourself a great site here and your passion shows. Love it.

    Keep it up!

    Dave (Sydney, AUS)

  29. meriem Says:

    hi, i tried it this morning for the first time…what could i say : delicious!!
    thanks for sharing mike

  30. Dillon Raye Says:

    Well, here is what I said when I tasted this: billy……Billy…….BILLY………..**BILLY**!!!!!!!………paching pachow…paching pachow PACHING PACHOW PACHING -PACHOW……SPLAT SPLAT!!!!!

  31. Spring Dish: Wet Polenta with Mushrooms and Ramps « Day to Day – A Lifestyle blog set in Sunny San Diego Says:

    […] basically Italian grits. My ex-boyfriend was southern and so when I would make Polenta with Osso Bucco I would tell him it was Polenta (he thought he hated grits) to ensure that he ate dinner. […]

  32. Iva Says:

    This is the best veal dish that I ever had!!!! Even my son, who’s not a big meat fan, loved it. I followed the recipe almost to the end….did not have to thicken the sauce. It was perfect, and I did not use bay leaves (don’t like them). Still the dish was amazing. And the gremolata….i love raw garlic and had no problem with it. Actually I will use the gremolata on other dishes too from now on. And last – I used mashed potatoes (as I did not have polenta) it worked perfect. Thank you for the great recipe.

  33. Gord Says:

    Wow, this was tasty! My five year old inhaled it – he’s a meat lover. And we used organic beef shanks instead of veal, but the result was the same: a taste sensation.

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    I found this page about 5ish years ago and still coming page for the recipe. Lots of friends have been left wanting more after finishing this deliciously, succulent dish.
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