Jim Coleman | Making osso buco: We're gonna have a veal good time

Posted: November 29, 2007

Q. I'm having a holiday party in a few weeks and my husband requested that I serve osso buco. My only problem is that I have never made it before. Can you please send me a recipe and also give some advice about shopping for the ingredients? I enjoy trying your recipes!

- Cheryl S.

It sounds to me like Old Hubby needs to roll up his sleeves and don an apron. He who requests should offer to help. On the other hand, you may be better off if he avoids the kitchen before the party.

We will give him credit in that osso buco is a very good dish for entertaining because it is something that can easily be made ahead of time (even a day ahead) and be reheated when ready to serve. You were right to inquire about the groceries because the key to this dish from Milan is buying quality ingredients. The translation for the term osso buco is "bone with a hole" or "bone mouths" because of the holes in the shank bones used for the dish. The best shank bones are filled with marrow, which, after cooking, can be spooned out and spread on Italian bread before devouring. Delicious!

So the right shanks are important. I've seen beef shanks labeled "osso buco" in the store, and while they are less expensive, they can't compare to veal shanks. Shanks are part of the leg, so some are fore shanks, from the front legs, and others are hind shanks, from the back legs. If at all possible, especially if you buy from a butcher, try to purchase hind shanks, because they are larger and have more meat.

Traditionally, osso buco is sprinkled with a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon zest called gremolata. And typically the dish is made without any type of tomato product and served with risotto - preferably a saffron risotto. Today, however, you will see more modern versions with tomatoes that work better when served with polenta. I'm sharing a recipe for both versions. For your dinner party, you might want to opt for serving polenta with either one because it is easier than risotto to deal with in large quantities. The other obvious choice is to put Hubby in charge of the side dish. *

Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows – "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.


4 veal shanks, about 1 pound each

1/2cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2green pepper, chopped

1/2red pepper, chopped

5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2cup dry white wine

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Kosher salt and pepper to taste


2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a paper bag, add the shanks and shake gently. Heat a Dutch oven or an ovenproof sauté pan large enough to hold the shanks in one layer over high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the shanks and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and reduce heat to medium-high. Place the onions, carrots, celery and peppers in the pan. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Pour in the wine and both broths. Return heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon juice, bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, the 1 1/2 tablespoons of parsley and additional salt and pepper. Cook in a preheated 350-degree oven uncovered, until reduced by about one-third. (There should be enough liquid to come about half way up the sides of the shanks.) Return the shanks, and any accumulated juices, to the pan. Cover tightly and place in oven. Cook until the meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bones, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the shanks from the pan. Cook the sauce over high heat until reduced as desired. Mix together the Gremolata ingredients, stirring well to combine. Serve the shanks, spooning some sauce over each and topping with the Gremolata.


4 Veal Shanks of similar size, about 1 pound each

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly smashed

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 sprig of fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon dried)

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, (1 teaspoon dried)

teaspoons lemon zest

cup red wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 can (14.5 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed with fingers, with juices

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

3 cups (or more if needed) unsalted or low sodium beef broth

Season the veal shanks on both sides with kosher salt and pepper and lightly coat with the flour. In a large oven-safe sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the veal shanks and cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Lower the heat and add the garlic, herbs and vegetables to the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to sweat. Add the red wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes with juice, and lemon zest and stir to combine.

Place the veal shanks back in the pot and add enough broth to come half-way up the shanks. Bring the pot to a simmer and cover with a lid. Place the pot in a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours. You may need to check periodically and add water. The shanks are tender when a sharp knife can be inserted into the meat and removed with absolutely no resistance. If you still meet resistance place back in the oven and cook and additional 20 minutes until they are tender.

When shanks are done, remove from the pan and set aside. Remove the sprigs of herbs from the pan and place the pan over high heat and reduce the sauce to desired consistency and taste. If needed season with salt and pepper.

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