Tender, falling-off-the-bone beef shanks braised in a rich and delicious tomato sauce, this Osso Buco is what comfort food dreams are made of. Try it over a bed of hearty polenta and garnish with an herby and bright Gremolata.
What You Need For Osso Buco
- Veal or Beef Shanks: Veal shanks tend to be more common in North America and parts of Europe, but I prefer to use beef shanks when I can find them. They have more of a meaty flavour, which I like.
Tip: I always try to look for shanks that have a good amount of meat, not too much fat, and as large of a marrow cavity as possible. I cannot stress how good marrow is. Absolutely divine!
- Carrot, Celery & Onion: Commonly referred to as mirepoix, or sofrritto in Italian, this combination of carrot, celery and onion forms the aromatic base for the tomato sauce in which the osso buco cooks.
- Garlic: You may not find garlic, let alone 4 cloves of it, in traditional osso buco recipes, but it adds such a wonderful flavour that I just can’t resist. My golden rule is use as much garlic as you like.
- Tomato Paste: Look for good quality tomato paste, preferably made with tomatoes from Italy.
- Fresh Thyme: Try tying the sprigs of thyme together with butcher’s twine before adding it to the sauce. That way you can easily remove all the stems after cooking.
- Good Quality Chicken Broth: This recipe doesn’t have many ingredients to hide behind so the quality of the chicken broth you use is very important.
I like Kettle & Fire because it tastes great, is made with organic chicken bones and vegetables, without any preservatives, colourings, fillers or stabilizers. It’s also shelf-stable, which is very convenient because it doesn’t need to be stored in the freezer.
You can buy it in stores or order online and use code PRIMALGOURMET for 20% OFF.
- Wine: I’ve made osso buco with and without wine and can honestly say I prefer it without. But you’re the boss, applesauce. Use it if you like! Half a cup of red or white wine should be enough for this recipe.
What About the Flour?
Most osso buco recipes call for dredging the shanks in flour before browning them in the pan. The flour helps develop a deeper crust on the shanks and more of a fond (brown bits) on the bottom of the pan. Residual flour left over in pan also may help thicken the sauce as it cooks.
Sure, you can dredge in flour if you like, but it’s not necessary.
You can develop just as good of a crust and fond without dredging in flour by doing 2 things:
- Remove the shanks from the fridge 1 hour before cooking and let them come to room temperature. Cold meat will drop the temperature in the pan and cause steam to build up, resulting in less browning.
- Use paper towel to pat the shanks very dry before cooking. The drier the meat, the more chance it has to brown in the pan.
For Best Results…
- Use quality ingredients. The finished product is only as good as the stuff that goes into it. Especially true when it comes to the meat and broth.
- Remove the meat from the fridge at least one hour before browning it. Cold meat + hot pan= less browning.
- Dusting with flour is not necessary. The shanks will brown nicely without the flour and the bones will release some gelatine into the sauce, which will result in a creamy and rich finished product. This is good news if you’re following a paleo or Whole30 program.
- Take your time chopping the mirepoix (or sofrritto). I like to go with a fine dice, but you can just as easily keep things rustic and cut the vegetables a bit bigger. Regardless, you’ll want all the veggies cut into equal sizes so that they cook evenly.
Osso Buco with Gremolata (Braised Beef Shanks)
For the Osso Buco:
- 3 beef shanks substitute veal shanks
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 carrot diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
For the Polenta:
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
- 4 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter optional
For the Gremolata:
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
For the Osso Buco:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Pat the beef shanks very dry with paper towel. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut three slits in the membrane around the edge of each shank – this will help prevent the shanks from curling as they cook. Generously season both sides with salt.
- Heat a large saute pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the beef shanks and cook, undisturbed, until browned, around 6 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned, around 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the carrot, celery and onion. Season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasional, until the vegetables have slightly softened, around 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 60 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring to incorporate, 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth and use a wooden spatula to lift any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme, bay leaves and black pepper. Season with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Nestle the browned beef shanks in the sauce, bring the liquid to a steady simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.
- Transfer the beef shanks to a serving platter and use a ladle to remove any grease in the sauce. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. Spoon the sauce over the osso buco and serve with the polenta and gremolata.
For the Polenta:
- Add the water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, season the water with salt and lower the heat to low. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and continuously whisk until everything is incorporated. Cover with a lid and cook, stirring regularly with a spatula, for 25 to 30 minutes. Add the butter, if using, and stir through to combine.
For the Gremolata:
- In a bowl, combine the parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Stir to incorporate, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.