Osso Bucco: Braised Veal Shanks

Mary Anne here. We’ve been on a real braise-craze of late, but who can blame us, given the wicked winter we’ve endured here on the East Coast. These patiently nurtured, slowly roasted stews and braises have been a shared comfort here at Feast. The following recipe is a total splurge – a la the 1980’s – and it’s by no means a Feast on the Cheap, but hey – sometimes you have to cut loose a little! Osso Bucco is one of the more decadent gustatory pleasures, as the slow braise produces the most tender, succulent result accompanied by a rich, deeply flavored au jus. I serve my rendition with a Gremolata comprised of fresh lemon and orange zest, grated horseradish, mashed garlic, and heaps of parsley – a topping as fragrant as the veal itself.

Recently, my dueling-dish of a daughter threw down the oven mitt and engaged me in a battle of braised-brews. She suggested I re-create my popular Osso Bucco from those high-fallutin’, pre-economic-collapse catering days, while she’d whip up her own braise that would match my pricey concoction in flavor, but would be far kinder to the old pocket book. Her Beer-Braised Brisket was born and has been an incredibly popular post, garnering raves from our readers.

If you’ve decided to take on the task of prepping my Italian classic, there are a few rules you’ll need to heed. Numero uno: LOOK AT HOW THICK THE BUTCHER CUT THE SHANKS BEFORE YOU PAY and take it home. My butcher totally ignored my careful instructions. Prior to placing my order, I literally went to the back of the shop, looked at his saw and pointed to exactly 2 ½ inches. The greedy butcher cut the shanks 4 inches thick, thus jacking up the already high price of veal. The enormous shanks looked like Fred Flintstone was coming to dinner and Dino (in carnivore mode) was his plus one!! No matter how delicious a dish is, it’s all about the presentation and these babies were just plain scary looking! Moral of the story: Trusting the butcher is not always chef-friendly.

My butcher assured me that I needn’t transfer the veal to a cling-wrap coat once home, so I didn’t check out what lay beneath the neatly tied brown paper. I took it home and stashed it in the fridge until the next day – a Sunday, of course! – when I finally unleashed the monsters. I adjusted my shattered confidence as well as the braising time and accompanying ingredients, and fortunately the meal had a happy ending. Sadly however, the following day I then had to go to another, less avaricious butcher and place yet another order so I could properly prepare the Osso Bucco to ensure my timing was perfect for our readers. I’ll be eating leftovers for another few days, but it’s even better with time, so who am I to complain, even if my wallet is still whining!

We served the Osso Bucco with Mariel’s Portobello Mushroom Risotto and a simple green salad. For dessert — Chocolate Ice Cream Cups — the perfect foil for such a savory feast!

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Osso Bucco: Braised Veal Shanks
Serves 6

Tips: As noted above, this can be prepared one or two days before, up to the point of basting and glazing the final product. Simply remove from the fridge and allow the braised veal to return to room temperature before reheating. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Baste with the reduced au jus in the last 10 minutes of reheating.

Make sure you have a lidded casserole wide and deep enough to accommodate the veal in a single layer.

6 large veal shanks, 2 to 2 ½ inches thick, patted dry and tied with butcher’s twine – $122.40
2 cups flour, seasoned with salt and pepper – stock
7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided – stock
4 Tablespoons sweet butter – stock
1½ cups dry white cooking wine – stock
1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped – $0.87
1½ cups carrot (2 to 3 large) – $0.99
¾ cup celery, finely chopped- $1.99
3 cloves garlic, minced – stock
4 cups beef stock (NOT broth) (or enough to almost cover the veal shanks) – stock
28 oz. can diced plum tomatoes, drained – $1.00
¾ teaspoon dried basil – stock
¾ teaspoon dried thyme – stock
1 Bay leaf – stock

For the Gremolata:
The zest of 2 lemons – $1.00
The zest of 1 orange – $0.89
2 cloves garlic, minced – stock
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, minced – $1.99
¼ cup grated fresh horseradish – $2.09
½ cup toasted pine nuts, optional
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $133.22
Total Per Serving: $22.21

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using paper towels, pat the veal shanks dry and dredge in the seasoned flour.

2. In a large, heavy sauté skillet, heat 4 Tablespoons of the olive oil with the 4 Tablespoons of butter. Brown the veal on both sides over medium-high flame. Transfer the seared veal to a platter.

3. Deglaze the sauté pan with the white wine. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the wine is reduced to about ½ cup. Be sure to scrape up all of those brown bits from searing the meat. (Adds flavor to the sauce.) Transfer the wine reduction to a bowl and set aside.

4. Heat the remaining 4 Tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots, and celery over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.

5. Remove from the flame and stir in the herbs, mixing well to combine.

6. Transfer the vegetables to the lidded casserole, spreading evenly along the bottom. Tip: Spray the inside of the lid with Pam/cooking spray for easier clean up.

7. Place the veal shanks over the vegetables. Pour the reserved white wine and any accumulated juices from the veal platter over the meat and veggies.

8. Add enough beef stock to nearly cover the shanks, but not quite.

9. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the veal. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Bay leaf.

10. Cover the casserole with its tight fitting lid and braise the meat for 2 to 2 ½ hours until very tender. Test for doneness with a fork. It should slide in like it’s butter! (Can be prepared 1- 2 days before up to this point.)

11. Meanwhile, prepare the Gremolata by combining the parsley, lemon and orange zest, grated horseradish, and garlic.

12. When the veal is done, leave the oven on at 350 degrees and transfer the meat to an ovenproof platter. Remove the butcher’s twine with shears, and keep the veal covered and next to the hot oven.

13. Prepare the au jus: Using a wire mesh colander, strain the pan juices into a medium-size saucepan. Press hard on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Skim the fat off the top of the strained liquid.

14. Boil the juices for 15 to 20 minutes, until reduced to about 3 cups. It will thicken slightly, but is thinner than traditional gravy.

15. Using a pastry brush, baste the tops of the veal shanks with some of the au jus, and return to the oven, basting once or twice more until glazed, about 10 miuntes.

16. Plate the Osso Bucco, pour some of the juices around the veal and top with the Gremolata and Pine Nuts. Pass the remaining au jus at table.


    • feastonthecheap says

      Hey Liz. In general, I’m not a big fan of veal for a lot of reasons, but this recipe, like my braised lamb shanks, transforms into such a tender, flavorful roast, that I’m not really thinking about anything except the next bite!! Cheers! Mary Anne

  1. says

    I “almost” bought a veal shank the other day. In fact when back several times and to look at it. But I couldn’t do it but maybe next week I will feel differently!

    Stunning photos…as always!

    • feastonthecheap says

      It is a tough cut visually and expensive to boot, but I hope you can rationalize the cost because the Osso Bucco is worth every penny! And thanks for commenting on the photo. I’m still trying to figure out the photography side of things, and it’s nice to hear you liked the pic. Mariel’s are always good, but mine…well, I’m learning! Cheers! Mary Anne

  2. Michael Emery says

    Amazing! Off all the images of Osso Bucco yours was the most inviting. Many people serve Osso Bucco with polenta, which is good, but piling the shank on top of polenta and dousing it with gravy is not nearly as appetizing. I also appreciate the Gremolata, to liven and freshen an otherwise dark and richly flavored meal. I just finished a lamb version of Osso Bucco and was looking for serving and presentation ideas. Thanks for the inspired direction. Cheers!

  3. Florence says

    I agree with Michael Emery. The simple jus is much more appealing. I stopped making osso buco for special occasions. Everyone loved it but just the sight of it with the polenta or risotto alla milanese made people feel stuffed. It’s my husband’s B-Day Saturday. I have heeded the advice about 2 1/2 cuts and will bring the starch and greens together….perhaps serving a barley salad. Anything has to be lighter than polenta or the risotto (perhaps not more delicious though). Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  4. Florence says

    Hi again,

    Despite feeling awful I sat at the table with the family. The osso buco, green beans and french green salad were a huge hit, though everything unfortunately tasted like cardboard to me. I even put down a mini creme caramel that my daughter made even though she, our son and myself don’t eat eggs. (I don’t touch poultry of any kind.) But it was hubby’s B-Day and he loves the stuff. Ate 4 of them!

    Spent the rest of the weekend on the couch reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s latest book (I recommend it) and knitting a baby vest for my husband’s aunt to send to a Catholic Mission in Malawi. (So what if I’m Jewish! )

    Thanks for your tips and for writing back.


    • feastonthecheap says

      Oh that’s the worst. When you spend all that time making something so complex (and delicious) and aren’t even able to taste it! Sounds like you were incredibly productive though despite not feeling well. I am seriously impressed!!

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