March 17, 2010


Lately I've been finding myself unusually unmotivated in school. Instead, I've been focusing my energy more on cooking, except when last week I wanted to make rainbow cookies (you know, those delicious red-green-yellow cakey cookies from the supermarket) and was later greeted by my mom coming home with a box of the very same cookies. My cooking ambitions were further delayed.We're big eaters over at the Piece of Cake, if you hadn't caught on. My mom and I in particular live to nibble every last bite of meat off the meat of the bones of whatever we're eating. It would be embarassing if it wasn't so darn delicious (especially at restaurants, when it couldn't be more obvious that we're cutting-chicken-with-a-knife amateurs). And if you don't know, the best meat dish of all for a bone-nibbler is osso buco, or braised veal shanks. Although I don't much care for the tate of red meat (I eat it about once every year), Marcella Hazan's osso buco milanese style makes me tear slightly about when I will eat it again- of course it's always gone by the end of the meal.My Grandma, who, quite frankly, has a hard time resisting the sales at Stop and Shop, always buys 1 veal shank at a time when it's discounted and stores it in her freezer until the next sale, at which point she buys another, and gradually builds up a supply in her fridge. At which point, my mom and I visit, and leave with a bag of food (as usual)- when opportunity strikes, it includes the two-years' worth of savings of veal shanks. But nowadays, my Grandma claims to not have any left in her freezer, so we have to buy our own from Fresh Direct (although we all know it's stashed away in there somewhere).
This used to be my favorite dish as a child (I had a very sophisticated palate, as you can tell), and I would go on about it year after year. I've never made it before now because my mom usually does, but It definitely requires a good amount of work before a long cooking period. The result was a little brothy for my taste because I went a bit over on the liquid, but it was incredibly flavorful and tender. We need not have used a knife to cut the meat, which, of course, I take full pride in.

Ossobuco alla Milanese (oss bus)
from Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook

For 6 persons
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 strips lemon peel
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 shanks veal, sawed into 8 pieces about 2 inches long, each securely tied around the middle
3/4 cup all purpose flour, spread on a plate or on waxed paper
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups meat broth
1 1/2 cups canned Italian tomatoes coarsely chopped, with their juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4 leaves fresh basil (optional)
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 sprigs parsley
Freshly ground pepper, about 6 twists of the mill
Salt, if necessary

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ.

Choose a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid that is just large enough to contain the veal pieces later in a single layer. (If you do not have a casserole large enough for all the veal, use two small ones, dividing the chopped vegetables and butter in two equal parts, but adding 1 extra tablespoon of butter per casserole.) Put in the onion, carrot, celery, and butter and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften and wilt. Add the chopped garlic and lemon peel at the end. Remove from the heat.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the trussed pieces of veal in the flour, shaking off any excess. When the oil is quite hot (test it with the corner of one of the pieces of veal: a moderate sizzle means the heat is just right), brown the veal on all sides. (Brown the veal as soon as it has been dipped in flour, otherwise the flour may dampen and the meat won't brown properly.) Stand the pieces of veal side by side on top of the vegetables in the casserole.

Tip the skillet and draw off nearly all the fat with a spoon. Add the wine and boil briskly for about 3 minutes, scraping up and loosening any browning residue stuck to the pan. Pour over the pieces of veal in the casserole.

In the same skillet, bring the broth to a simmer and pour into the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, the thyme, basil, bay leaves, parsley, pepper, and salt. (Hold off on salt until after cooking if you are using canned beef broth. It is sometimes very salty.) The broth should come up to the top of the veal pieces. If it does not, add more.

Bring the contents of the casserole to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover tightly and place in the lower third of the preheated oven. Cook for about 2 hours, carefully turning and basting the veal pieces every 20 minutes. When done, they should be very tender when pricked with a fork, and their sauce should be dense and creamy. (If, while the veal is still cooking, there is not enough liquid in the casserole, you may add up to 1/3 cup of warm water. If the reverse is true, and the sauce is too thin when the veal is done, remove the meat to a warm platter, place the uncovered casserole on top of the stove, and over high heat briskly boil the sauce until it thickens.) Pour the sauce over the veal and serve piping hot. Garnish with parsley.

When transferring the veal pieces to the serving platter, carefully remove the trussing strings without breaking up the shanks.

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