Osso Buco with Beef Shanks
I love classic osso buco (AW-soh BOO-koh) made with veal shanks that are braised in wine, stock and a whole bunch of vegetable ingredients. Some home cooks are not thrilled with using veal as an ingredient, others may find veal shanks too expensive so I thought I would give beef shanks a try and see if it made a difference.
Bottom line – it did. The meal was good, not great.
I made some changes to my Osso Buco recipe on my web site. Besides substituting beef for veal, I took some short cuts to make the recipe faster to prep and easier to make at home but I don’t think that’s what affected the final outcome of the dish.
The beef shanks are just not as flavorful or tender as the veal shanks. Now maybe I didn’t cook the beef shanks as long as they needed to be cooked, but after two hours, they were a little dry and didn’t fall off the bone like veal shanks do.
The sauce resulting from braising the meat in the wine and stock with all those vegetables is still incredible. I can’t wait to serve the leftovers on some wide pasta noodles with all that wonderful sauce.
We served the osso buco with delicious baby Yukon Gold mashed potatoes my wife expertly prepared and a spring mix salad with her favorite commercial dressing.
Some of the changes I made for this recipe work perfectly well with the classic veal shank osso buco. For example, I think substituting beef/brown stock for chicken stock gives the dish a richer flavor. I also don’t have any problem with using canned diced tomatoes for the fresh tomato pulp.
The original recipe calls for 6 veal shanks but the package of beef shanks contained only 4 and were so much bigger than veal shanks that I thought it would be enough. If you are cooking this for a dinner party, the number you use depends on the number of your guests. You want to serve one per person for the presentation.
Osso Buco Revisited
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1- tablespoon olive oil more as needed
- 4 - 6 beef shanks
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 medium sized onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery sticks
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 anchovy fillets or 3 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 cup of red wine
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
- Bouquet Garni consisting of the peel of 1 lemon 3 parsley sprigs, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf
- Gremolada condiment to serve with
- ½ cup fresh parsley zest of 1 lemon 2 garlic cloves
- There's a lot of prep work involved but once it's done the rest is easy.
- Chop up the vegetables. The onion, carrot and celery should be finely chopped and the garlic should be minced.
- Put together the Bouquet Garni by adding all the ingredients to a piece of cheesecloth and then tying it up like a little satchel with a piece of string.
- Prep the beef shanks by tying kitchen string around the perimeter of each shank. This keeps them from falling apart while braising. This is more important when braising veal shanks that are more tender and fall apart more easily.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- How to Make at Home
- Start the cooking process by heating the butter and oil in a large pan that you can put in the oven over medium high heat. A large Dutch Oven works great for this recipe but I have also made it in a large fry pan.
- I have a large 5 qt. French Oven by Le Creuset that I use for most of my braising recipes like this one and it is one of my favorite pieces of cookware. Yes, Le Creuset is expensive but it is the type of pan I will have for the rest of my life and will probably be in one of my kids lives for a generation or two.
- While the butter and oil are heating up, dredge the veal shanks in flour, shake off any excess, and then add them to the pan. Brown both sides and the edges.
- If your beef shanks are as large as the ones I purchased, you may be only able to cook 2 at a time. When the browning is done, remove and set aside on a separate plate and continue browning the rest.
- When all the shanks are browned and reserved on a plate, lower the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté these ingredients until the onion starts to caramelize. I found I need to add a little more olive oil at this point because the pan was too dry. Add the garlic and anchovy and continue to sauté until you can smell the garlic cooking but be careful not to let it burn.
- Add the wine to deglaze the pan and continue cooking it down until there is just a trace of wine left. Add the stock and tomato to the pan. This is a good time to add the Bouquet Garni and the beef shanks.
- Bring the stock to a boil, cover and put into the oven. If you don't have a large Dutch or French Oven and your fry pan is not large enough to hold all the shanks, you will have to transfer them to a large casserole pan with tight fitting cover.
- I cooked the shanks for a total of 2 hours, turning the shanks over after the first hour. I also basted them every 30 minutes or so checking to make sure the stock was not boiling. If it was, I turned down the oven temp a bit.
- After two hours with veal shanks, the meat is falling off the bone. With the beef shanks, this wasn't the case. The meat was tender but not as tender as I would like it to be. I'm still not sure if it's the meat or I needed to cook them longer. In any case and in my opinion, the veal shanks are generally more tender and have more flavor.
- When the shanks are done cooking, remove them and place them on a large serving plate, remove the string and keep warm. Find the bouquet garni, remove it and throw it out. Now it's time to process the wonderful sauce.
- I use a hand blender to process the sauce right in the pan but you can also use a regular blender, a food processor or a food mill if you have one. Once you process the sauce, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- On a warmed plate, add your mashed potatoes, risotto, pasta or whatever you decide to serve this with, add one shank and top with a little of the gremolada. I like to have a small bowl of the extra gremolada at the table if anyone wants more.