I was feeling like having some osso bucco, which is braised shanks of veal. But here in Kuching, certain cuts of beef like veal are more difficult to get. So I decided to prepare osso bucco with lamb instead.
It didn’t hurt that I already had some lamb shanks sitting in my freezer that I thought would be perfect to cook this dish with. Even though I’ve said before that I have a go-to lamb shanks recipe, I decided I had to try a new recipe to make this osso bucco.
So why osso bucco? It’s not that I’ve eaten plenty of them. I just happened to remember having one at a friend’s place a long, long time ago. The only thing I remember from it was the gremolata. A what?!? A GREMOLATA! (Say that quickly three times!) THAT kicked the whole experience up for me a giant notch!
(For those who need to know, a gremolata is a chopped condiment usually made with lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.)
For the gremolata, I would make an osso bucco. (Yes, I’m strange like that.)
Anyway, having determined I was going to do it, I looked around for some recipes. Some were pretty straightforward, and others called for a little bit more. I haven’t had a chance to cook anything fancy for a while, so I decided to be a bit more ambitious and go with a more complex recipe.
Boy, was I glad I did. The flavours were phenomenal and the whole family enjoyed the dish tremendously. And I got to make and sprinkle liberally the gremolata that was my reason for this whole endeavour on my own plate. YUM!
The recipe I chose to use was taken from Epicurious.com. The use of fresh herbs (which are often hard to find here) does give this dish a vegetal bite which was nicely balanced by the strong gamey flavours of the lamb and the intense savoriness of the tomato sauce. What’s interesting is the use of white wine, when I would have thought to use red wine because of the red meat and tomatoes.
Lamb Osso Bucco with Tomatoes and Herbs Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2003
Prep time: 30 min Cook time: 4 hours
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3-4 large lamb shanks, cut into half or thirds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 cup chopped carrots (1 medium carrot)
1/2 cup chopped celery (2-3 ribs)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 3 x 1/2-inch strips lemon peel
2 small bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups dry white wine
1 can whole tomatoes (chopped up or crushed by hand) in juice
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (stems and all)
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl; rub all over lamb. Let stand 30 minutes.
Herbs and Spices for Lamb Shanks
2. Preheat oven to 350°F (if using the oven. Otherwise, you can also cook this dish on low heat on your stovetop).
3. Heat oil in large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sauté until brown, turning with tongs, about 12 minutes; transfer to plate.
4. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cover and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in garlic; cook 1 minute.
5. Mix in lemon peel strips, bay leaves, and thyme. Add wine and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes and broth. Return lamb to pot. Bring to boil; cover and transfer pot to oven or turn heat to low and simmer over stove.
Browning Lamb Shanks and Cooking Aromatics
6. Cook lamb until just tender, turning occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove pot from oven. Tilt pot and spoon off fat that rises to top of sauce. Place pot over medium heat and boil uncovered until sauce reduces enough to coat spoon and lamb is very tender, about 30 minutes. (My sauce never did reduce to that point, and I boiled for 45 minutes, but that is alright, I liked it with more sauce for the pasta anyway)
Braising Lamb Shanks, Skimming the Fat
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and a touch of soy sauce if you like). Discard lemon peel and bay leaves. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool 30 minutes, chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before continuing.)
8. Mix cilantro, grated lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl for gremolata. Transfer lamb to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with gremolata and serve with pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes.
Making the Gremolata
The one thing that I did not use that the original recipe called for was the capocollo or pancetta. I was discussing this addition with Nate and pondering if I should substitute it with bacon, but I just didn’t feel that it needed more fat or flavour. Lamb (one of my favourite meats) is very flavourful on its own and also very FATTY on its own. I did not see the need for anything else to compete or add to it so I took that ingredient out.
I had mentioned that the recipe calls for plenty of fresh herbs–thyme, rosemary, and later in the gremolata, some parsley. I did manage to find some fresh herbs on sale at the grocery store for some ridiculously audacious price (3 small stalks of rosemary and a medium-ish bunch of thyme for RM9–about USD3) which was just enough for the initial marinade.
I added some dried thyme to the sauce later when it called for more fresh ones. I just could not get myself to buy more overpriced herbs (I’m cheap, what can I say?). And instead of parsley, I substituted with cilantro (easily available at the local market) in my gremolata (still cheap…). I think that my substitutions did not affect the overall flavours and I actually think the gremolata with cilantro is amazing, perhaps even better than just using regular parsley.
One tip when making a braise–give it time. This is a slow-cooking dish that needs to be started early in the day if you want to have it for dinner. Or if you find yourself running late, get your shanks cut up in half or thirds to help to hasten the cooking process. I actually find this better for this particular recipe as the shank then resembles veal osso bucco even more. You could also make this braise a whole day ahead to allow the flavours to improve even more.
As for sides, we went with some fusili pasta and steamed broccoli. The pasta was perfect for the strong tomato-based sauce. I would also suggest mashed potatoes or polenta if you want to mix it up.
By the way, turns out that complex flavours and long ingredients list does not equate with difficult to make. This turned out to be as easy as my other lamb shank recipe and was very delicious and rewarding.
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For its use of cilantro, I am entering this post in the Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, hosted and organized this week by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything.