I pulled my crockpot from its hiding place on top of the cupboard early on Sunday morning and thought about what I was going to do with it.
I had bought some “osso bucco” sliced beef shins at the market on Friday, so I thought I would knock up a classic hearty Italian osso bucco.
Literally “bone with a hole” in Italian, the classic recipe calls for tomatoes, white wine, chicken stock and the beef, along with a healthy crop of garlic (my favourite recipe calls for seven cloves). Classical peasant dishes like osso bucco, however, are inevitably sufficiently robust to allow a bit of tinkering around the edges, or substitution if you don’t have the exact ingredients called for. In this case, we didn’t have any white wine in the house, so I used red. If you’re totally out of booze, then you can just add more stock, although the end product will suffer a little from lack of complexity in the flavouring.
Assembling my tools for the first part of the exercise, I first dusted the meat with flour (take a handful of flour, spread it over a dinner plate, drop the meat into it on both sides). I generally season my flour a little, with a smattering of whatever’s going to be the main flavouring for the dish – in this case, just a few shakes of cracked black pepper.
Then, I prepared the crock pot. I dropped in eight cloves of finely chopped garlic, a tin of crushed tomatoes, a cup of red wine and two cups of chicken stock. I turned the cooker on, and let it start getting up to heat while I turned my attention back to the meat.
I put a heavy based frying pan onto high heat, and prepared to brown the meat. The object here isn’t to cook the meat all the way through (the crockpot will do that over the next 5 hours), but to sear the outside and deliver you with a better flavour and appearance at the end of the meal. With that in mind, you only need put the meat on for 1 – 2 minutes per side, just looking for a nice light brown colour and then place it gently into the crockpot.
Once you’ve got the meat into the crockpot, make sure the liquid is covering all of the meat – if not, first try rearranging the meat, and if that fails, add some more liquid – at this point you have so much flavour in the dish you can just put a cup or so of water in and it’s not going to be a problem. This is where you can also add extra flavours to the broth if you like – I’ll usually throw in a few drops of Tabasco or some thyme.
Having done that, you can go and get on with your day – knowing that you’ve done the bulk of the work needed for dinner!
Once you’re thinking about eating, all you need do is cook up something to serve the meat on – I’m on a low carb diet so I’ll generally go with sweet potato (roughly chopped, into the microwave on “potato”, then mashed with fetta, black pepper and chives).
One final touch for osso bucco that really lifts the flavour out is a gremolata – easy to make, just finely chop a handful of Italian parsley and then grate in some grana padano or parmesan and the zest of half a lemon.
To plate, make a bed of sweet potato mash, put one piece of meat per person on top, then a ladle full of the broth. Sprinkle with gremolata, and serve with a garden salad.
Leftover broth can be frozen and used as a tomato based flavour enhancer for other dishes – spaghetti sauce etc.
4 pieces of osso bucco – beef shin, but should be labelled as osso bucco
440g tin of tomatoes – crushed, chopped or whole, doesn’t make much difference
1 cup of white wine
2 cups of stock – chicken for preference (it’s a bit lighter), but beef or vegetable will work too
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 large sweet potatoes
100g of fetta
Chives to season
Handful of Italian parsley
Zest of half a lemon
Grated parmesan or grana padano
- Brown the meat, and place into a slow cooker with the other ingredients. Cook for 3 – 4 hours, or until the marrow in the middle of the bone is almost liquid and the meat is tender.
- To make the bed: Boil, steam or microwave the sweet potato until it’s able to be mashed or smashed with a fork. Mash through the fetta and chives.
- To prepare the Gremolata: Finely chop the parsley, add the other ingredients in a small bowl, sprinkle over the top of the meat when serving.
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread for the juice!
Bill’s my online cooking guru. He provides me with some great recipes so that I can learn a thing or two. If you’re a food-slash-cooking lover you can check in on Chef Bill’s recipes as well. They’ll be appearing here regularly under the tag Bill’s Banquet. (The link up top will be working shortly). You can read his bio here ~ RD