Ever since I started to get seriously interested in cooking, I’ve known that choosing a favourite recipe would be impossible. Even if we put aside dessert and focus on a single dinner main course, there are just too many options. Baby back BBQ ribs, sweet-and-sour duck breast, my mother’s imperial rolls, Laurent’s pizza, chicken fajitas, steak tartare, pho bo, sashimi, spaghetti a la carbonara with mushrooms, steamed mussels à la marinière… There’s just too much to choose from!
But I have a feeling that osso bucco would definitely be in my top five. My mother often made it for us when I was living at home, and it was always a treat for me. I wasn’t even freaked out by the bone marrow – instead, I relished it.
Osso bucco, for those of you who might be less familiar, means “pierced bone” in Italian. Basically, it is a veal shank, braised in a tomato-infused broth. But, as with most Italian dishes, there are a multitude of variations: there are even tomato-free versions.
I’ve tried several recipes. Often, I purposefully make too much sauce, which we freeze and use with pasta, on days when we are too busy to cook. Traditionally, osso bucco is served with saffron-infused Milanese risotto, but I like to serve it with plain long-grain rice, or couscous. And I like to up the ante on the vegetables, so as to make it an all-in-one meal.
Recently, however, Laurent’s mother introduced me to pork osso bucco. And it was actually really good; the meat had a stronger flavour than veal, but it also held together better. So, when I saw a couple of gorgeous pork shanks at the grocery store, I couldn’t resist buying them and preparing them for myself. After all, they weren’t that much expensive than veal shanks – which, I have to admit, aren’t cheap.
I prepared them as I do veal shanks, with lots of veggies. But I used less liquid than I usually do, so as to properly braise them, rather than stew them. And, oh my goodness, they were good! Tender and succulent, each bite full of flavour. I completely forgot to make the gremolata, the traditional accompaniment of minced garlic, chopped parsley and grated lemon zest, which is served on the side and sprinkled over the meat – but I didn’t miss it until I was nearly finished inhaling my meal!
Happy Easter to you all!
Pork Osso Bucco
4-6 pork shanks (depending on size)
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
4 celery ribs
120 ml (1 cup) diced canned tomatoes
Water, as needed
2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Salt and pepper the pork shanks, then coat them in the flour.
In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the pork shanks, turning them over once or twice as needed. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium, toss in the chopped onion, and cook until the onion turns transparent. Deglaze with the white wine, and scrape any brown bits off the pan. Continue cooking until the wine is nearly evaporated.
Add the carrots, celery, pork shanks, and diced tomatoes, and add enough water to just cover the shanks. Add the bay leaves, and season with salt. Bring to a boil, cover, place in the oven, and let simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meat is very tender, and almost falling off the bone.
If there is too much liquid remaining, either remove it with a spoon, or put the pan back on the stove and bring it to a boil until the liquid has evaporated enough for the sauce to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with white long-grain rice, couscous, or mashed potatoes.