Saturday, January 13, 2007

Elk Shanks Osso Bucco

I've been battling one of my periods of black mood. Some of it comes from identifiable stuff, some of it's bog simple depression. I have found one of the finer antidotes to be doing something.

About three spreads over from me lives The God of all Ropers. Homeboy's famous. He has mostly retired from the rodeo circuit that he completely dominated for nearly twenty years. He runs some Corriente stock on his place. He has a herd of 3 Bars quarter horses that makes working cowpokes dance little jigs when they see them. 3 Bars quarter horses are almost their own breed. They are built like Bulldogs. He, like me, also has too much time on his hands. He called me yesterday while I was in the "wallowing in self pity" phase of my depression and told me about what looks like an abandoned turquoise mine out in the Santans, and asked if I would like to pack in with him and give it a look. I said "Hell yes." I also threw in an invitation for dinner tonight for his family (wife, teen aged daughter who my son describes as "babe-alicious") I told him I had some elk in the freezer and asked if that sounded good. He said "Boy, Howdy!" (which is cowboy for yes)

Osso Bucco is one of the signature dishes of Italian cuisine. It is normally done with veal shanks. I like the elk (or venison) even better. The shanks are bigger, the flavors are more intense. There is also none of that whole "raised in a tiny pen and force fed" thing that seems to surround veal.

INGREDIENTS (to serve six)


12 Elk shank slices (the meaty part, cut into 1 1/2" slices, have your butcher do this, it's safer)
all purpose flour
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
4 stalks of celery chopped fine (be sure to string them, it's just nicer that way)
6 cloves of garlic finely chopped (don't be afraid of using more either)
4 medium tomatoes, coarsly chopped
2 stalks fresh cilantro
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (to be tied together with the cilantro and thyme)
Beef Stock
Dry Red Wine (I am serving a Chateau Neuf du Pap tonight and that's what will go into the dish, I think God's wife is the only one drinking)

Gremolata ingredients

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
zest of one whole lemon
one glug olive oil

Put the Gremolata ingredients into a mortar and beat the crap of them with a pestle. Set this aside.

Dredge the shank slices thoroughly in flour. Heat a heavy cassarole dish on the stove with enough olive oil to cover the bottom and sear the slices to a deep golden brown. Dump the excess oil and wipe out the dish. Take a little more oil, add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until slightly softened. Add in wine to almost cover and cook unitl the wine is reduced by at least half. Add in the shank slices and the chopped tomatoes, add the tied herbs, add beef stock to just cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a nice, steady simmer, cover and cook slowly for at least two hours (when done, the meat should be quite tender but the shanks should not be at disintegration stage yet). About every fifteen minutes, turn and baste the shanks.

To serve, remove the meat slices, if the broth is watery reduce it further. You can also take 1 teaspoon of Cornstarch dissolved in a half cup of the broth and then stirred into the pan, but I prefer a straight reduction. Take a nice sized flat bowl, like one you would use to serve a hearty soup or stew and put some mashed potatoes in the center. Plop two shanks per person in the bowl, spoon the pan stock over that, sprinkle with the Gremolata. Have lots of sourdough baguettes with EVOO and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Be sure to set the table with tiny spoons which can be used to scoop out the rich and flavorful marrow for smearing on a hunk of bread.

(for dessert I'm opening a couple cans of my famous Canned Peaches served over a sinfully rich Vanilla Ice Cream.)

Since The God of all Ropers is close friends with a certain country singer (who's coming to town soon and I am plotting to be backstage) I plan to regale them with my celebrated version of Amarillo By Morning done on the Celtic Harp. I play the harp well enough that it will compensate for my crappy singing. I hope.

3 Beez

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My housemate makes a killer osso bucco (thanks to years spent in Italian restaurants as a back waiter, surreptitiously watching the cooks' techniques). He serves the shanks over risotto, but takes the broth and makes a mushroom sauce with it. He adds some of the marrow directly to that sauce (as well as red wine), so it's incredibly rich, and just glorious with a hearty red wine (such as a Chateau Neuf du Pape).

- oddjob (who finds the thought of venison osso bucco most intriguing!)

3:09 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

I used to do the risotto thing too, but when I was in Italy last, near Parma, I encounted it served with mashed potatoes. It was glorious. I then thought to myself, "why bother with all the extra work revolving around a risotto when you're only going slather that great sauce on the top?" I would imagine a mushroom sauce would be something truly great. I have found that there is enough marrow lost during the braising to more than make the sauce rich enough. I also couldn't bear to be denied that smear of marrow on a crust of bread. . .it's so decadent.
The bottle of Chateau Nuef getting uncorked tonight is a small estate bottling, a '75. I think it will go beyond hearty and approach heroic. It was a gift from a friend in Napa. He knows that even while I don't drink anymore myself, I still enjoy serving it to people that won't likely end up three day later, naked in Tucson.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DAMN........

(Actually, I've never been willing to spend the $$ for Chateau Neuf du Pape, so that's one I still don't know the taste of, although since I love the Rhone wines I've tried, I can imagine.......)

I'm not a marrow eater, so even though he's a dedicated carnivore, he can use the marrow from the one for me and save the remainder for himself.

And yes, you should consider what a mushroom sauce might be like as it merges with your mash........ I do splurge on 'shrooms. Whole Foods often has either fresh Chanterelles or Porcini, and if the occasion is enough for me to justify it to myself, I'll buy one or the other for the sauce, even if the bulk of the mushrooms are Crimini. He knows how to saute them until their all nicely brown/nearly black, so the flavor's quite intense, especially once the herbs, garlic, shallots, wine & broth are added.

Throw in wilted spinach (or chard, or braised kale) & you've got a meal for a king.

- oddjob

7:57 PM  
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3:54 PM  

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