Veal, quite rightly, has a bad reputation and does raise the ethical eyebrows of a lot of people. Images of trucks of crated calf without enough room to move their head being shouted at by well-meaning animal protesters come to mind. So how do I justify this recipe? A new trend over the past few years has been the English style rose veal, i.e. a young calf that hasn’t been crated and is allowed to move freely, despite being slaughtered young. Mind you, not particularly younger than lamb. Plus the dairy industry produces lots of young male calves of no use to them, hence this is an option rather than killing at birth. The meat is darker (rose) and more intense, perhaps less tender but I prefer the fuller flavour. And particularly in a slow cooked dish like this, the classic Italian Osso Bucco. So win-win all round. A lot (myself included) thought tomatoes were a key ingredient but after reading more about the dish, it isn’t part of the original. And I can see why, the ingredients look unbelievably simple but produce a full-flavoured sauce which would be overpowered by tomatoes, this has a purity that elevates it to a stunning dish. Add to that God’s butter (the very wise Fergus Henderson’s description of bone marrow) and you’ll see why you need to try this dish.
For the osso bucco (serves 4)
- 800g of rose veal shin, ideally with a few bits of marrowbone
- 4 medium carrots, medium diced
- 2 sticks of celery, medium diced
- 1 large onions, medium diced
- 250ml of dry white wine
- 500ml of chicken stock
For the gremolata
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 lemon
- 1 handful of flat leaf parsley
For the risotto
- 300g of risotto rice
- 500ml of vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- A good pinch of saffron
- 75g of finely grated parmesan
Firstly preheat the oven to 150°C. Put a good heavy-bottomed pan on a medium-low heat with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onions and gently fry for a couple of minutes, then add the celery and carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the cooked veg, add another splash of oil and turn up the heat to medium high. Roll the meat in the flour and brown on all sides, turning occasionally. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the white wine and stir with a wooden spoon, then add the rest and boil for a minute or so. Add the veg back in, along with the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven for 1.5-2 hours until the meat is tender. Check after an hour and if it’s still too thin, cook with the lid off to thicken the sauce.
The risotto Milanese is a comforting, rich side and adds to the indulgence of the dish with the best Parmesan you can get your hands on and that wondrous vivid yellow crocus stem, saffron. It should be soft and unctuous and settle in the bowl, risotto that stands up has not been made properly. The smooth creaminess comes from vigorous stirring to release some of the starch from the rice, you can do this in one blast at the end or as you go if you prefer, just make sure it gets a good amount of stirring at some point. Gently fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes without colouring, then add the garlic and fry for another 3 minutes. Add a tablespoon of butter and fry the rice with the onion until it starts to go translucent. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine and add the stock (all at once is fine, just underestimate a bit and add more when it looks dry). Crush the saffron between your fingers and mix with a small amount of water and add to the rice. Cook for 15-20 minutes, tasting towards the end until it has the right bite for your taste. At the very end add the parmesan and stir through, along with some more butter if you want to be even more indulgent.
To make the gremolata, at the last minute before serving very finely mince the garlic along with the zest of 1 lemon and the parsley. Season the risotto and osso buccon to taste. Serve bowls of risotto topped with the meat and finally the gremolata, ideally with a bone full of marrow on each plate. Enjoy.