When you think of ossobuco, you most likely think of Ossobuco alla Milanese, a fabulous recipe from Milan, Italy made with braised veal shanks which just happens to be one of my all time favorite meals.
Here’s my recipe for classic veal ossobuco (also spelled osso buco). I serve it with Gremolada made from parsley, lemon and garlic.
The name osso buco comes from the Italian Western Lombard language and translated means “hole bone” which is the shank that is filled with bone marrow that’s quite delicious. I like to remove it and use it in the sauce or just spoon it out and eat it as an extra treat at the end of the meal.
My First Experience with “PorkoBuco”
My wife and are were out for dinner at this small but fun Italian BYOB restaurant in Philadelphia with a group of friends after just attending the annual Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Car Show fund raiser.
We are dressed to the nines and find ourselves in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant with three large birthday parties going on around us, everyone having a great time. By the end of the night, everyone is singing happy birthday to anyone who dare claims they had a birthday in the past year. There is birthday cake being shared between tables, a very festive night.
The food in this place is terrific so we are all excited to hear the specials. The waiter comes over and says, “You all know what veal ossobuco is right? Well, we don’t have it tonight. Instead we are serving porkobuco!”
Since I’ve never had it before, I thought I would give it a try and ordered it. Pork osso buco is made just like the veal version except you use the pork shank instead of the veal shank.
Great Big Inexpensive Piece of Meat
The pork shank is big, meaty and looks more like a lamb shank and best of all is a fraction of the cost of veal shanks and much cheaper than lamb shanks. I think I paid under $3 per pound at my favorite pork butcher, Stolzfus Meats, in the Ardmore Farmers Market.
You may be more familiar with cured pork shanks, also called ham hocks that are sold for making split pea soup. You don’t want to use these for this recipe. If you can’t find fresh pork shanks, just ask your butcher to order you some and don’t let him overcharge you for them. They are very inexpensive.
One shank is enough for one person and makes an awesome display when served on mashed potatoes with that big bone sticking out. But be sure to buy extra shanks because there is nothing like leftover pork shank served over egg noodles with that rich incredible sauce.
The technique for cooking pork shanks or any shank for that matter is braising. Because the shank is a tough, inexpensive cut of meat, it needs long, slow moist cooking in a relatively low temperature to break down the tough connective tissue. If you have ever made a stew or pot roast, you used the technique of braising.
1-tablespoon olive oil
4 pork shanks
Salt & Pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic
3 anchovy fillets or 3 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
1-cup chicken stock (have some on reserve in case you need a little more)
One 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
Bouquet Garni (peel of 1 lemon, ¼ cup parsley sprigs, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf)
How To Prepare At Home
Preheat your oven to 325º F. While the oven is heating up, prep your ingredients and then season the shanks with a little salt and pepper.
Once seasoned, heat the oil and brown the shanks in a large, ovenproof casserole pan or roasting pan. You can always brown them in a smaller fry pan, two at a time, and then transfer them to a bigger pan.
I use my Le Creuset oval French oven for all my braising and it works great. I can brown the meat and vegetables and then just throw the pan into the oven. It is cast iron under that gorgeous enamel coating producing nice even heat when cooking.
When the shanks are browned, remove them and add the vegetables to the pan. Sauté the vegetables for just a few minutes until they start to brown a little. They will continue to cook with the meat while braising. If the vegetables appear dry, add a touch more olive oil. You can add the anchovy at this point if you are using it.
Add the wine to deglaze the pan of all the brown bits of meat and vegetables that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the wine cook down until most of it is cooked off. Add the chicken stock and diced tomato (with juice) and bring to a boil.
As soon as you come to a boil, turn off the heat, add the pork shanks and Bouquet Garni, cover with a tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Let this cook for about 2 hours. When the meat is tender and falling off the bone, it's done.
To Make the Tastiest Sauce Ever
When the meat is done, carefully remove the shanks from the pot trying not to let all the meat fall off the bone. Also remove and discard the Bouquet Garni. Using a hand blender if you have one, puree the sauce until smooth. If you don't have one, use your regular blender or food processor. You can also use a food mill too if you have one.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
How I Serve It
I like to serve this dish with mashed potatoes. I use a large soup bowl that's more like a deep plate. Start with the potatoes in the center of the bowl, cover the potatoes with sauce, and then top with a pork shank. There will be plenty of sauce so bring some to the table in a gravy boat in case your family or friends want some extra sauce. They will.
In the photo above, you see I served the pork osso buco with pasta. Two reasons; I didn't have potatoes on hand and even if I did, my kids really wanted pasta that night. Doesn't matter. The kids loved the meat and the sauce on the pasta was incredible.
This is an inexpensive, as good as it gets meal for this time of year. I highly recommend you give it a try.
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