When I was little my dad used to go crazy for Osso Buco, which translates from Italian as bone with a hole in. I just didn´t “get” it but I enjoyed dipping my bread in the sauce. My, how times have changed. I go crazy for it now as my dad did. Like many dishes, it used to be a poor person´s meal, made from the sliced shank bone of a young (or otherwise) cow. Of course, it´s now a rather grand restaurant dish and veal is more typically used. It´s not found that often on menus as it is a long, slow cooked recipe. It´s also often made with white wine and no tomato and served with a gremolata. Naturally, I ignored all this and did it my way!
When I saw in our local supermarket that they were selling sliced pork shank bones, I snapped up two packs (there were four in each) and decided to give making this delicious dish a go. If you´ve ever cooked oxtail, the process is pretty much the same. I also found that it was best made a day ahead to allow the flavours to really develop and to also be able to remove any fat from the top of the dish before heating and serving.
- To serve four people I used two fairly meaty slices of shank per person
- 1 large onion, peeled
- Four carrots, peeled
- 2 large sticks of celery cleaned and tough “strings” removed
- Four fat cloves of garlic
- 2 cups of crushed tomato
- 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée or concentrate
- ½ a bottle of red wine
- A bay leaf and about 5 whole peppercorns
- Olive oil for frying
- Flour for coating the meat
You will also need a deep heavy based (preferably oven proof) dish with a lid
Start by dealing with the vegetables. You can either finely chop or process. I chose the latter as I wanted the vegetables to cook down to a thick sauce, but the choice is yours.
Season the flour and coat the pieces of meat in it, reserving any that is left over. Cover the base of your cooking pot with oil and at a high heat, brown the meat on all sides and remove to a plate. Turn the heat down and add all the vegetables, make sure they are coated in oil then put the lid on and let them sweat gently until soft for about 10 minutes. Now stir in up to a heaped tablespoon of any left over flour, cook for a minute or two then add the crushed tomato, the concentrate and the wine. Bring it up to a bubble and have a little glass of wine while you are waiting.
When it is bubbling away nicely, add the meat back into the pot, season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the bay leaf and peppercorns. Cover the pot and either cook very slowly on the hob for about 2-3 hours or in the oven at the lowest setting for about 5 hours. I prefer to use the oven as there is no chance of anything sticking to the bottom of the pot and I think the longer, slower cooking really does add something to the flavour.
The dish is done when the meat is making only a token gesture to hold on to its delicious centre bone. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
This is a real winter warmer dish and is perfect served with mashed or boiled potatoes or plain boiled rice or wet polenta. Recommend you eat it with a fork and spoon as you won´t need a knife and you won´t want to miss any of that rich sauce. Fingers of course, are obligatory for sucking on the bones.