Gok Wan vs Don Corleone (or how to make Osso Buco)

When I had a proper job I used to have “Slow-Cook-Sundays”. When you work full time it’s really not practical to cook anything after work requiring a lot of preparation or cooking. Maybe I was just a wimp but when I got home at 7 I really wanted to be eating by 8 latest so I could at least squeeze a bit of an evening in between 8.30 and going to bed at 10.30. Those 2 hours a night were extremely precious to me. Well, precious in the sense that they were mainly spent calling my mum, fake-tanning, putting a wash on and some gentle weeping over Gok Wan’s latest self-esteem project.

So, with that in mind, my Sundays were reserved for making anything requiring a long, slow cooking. After a leisurely breakfast and sunday-paper-reading we might have a potter up Brick Lane to buy any missing ingredients (and to gawp at the fashionable people) and then home to prepare whatever I was slow-cooking that day. It might be a greek leg of lamb with lemon and oregano cooked for 4 hours very slowly until you can ease the bone out from the meat with a gentle tug. Or maybe a rabbit ragu with cinnamon and bay leaves. Or a spicy beef rendang made with stewing steak that would melt into a meaty sauce over a few hours. I love slow cooking, it’s my favourite thing to do. I love the fact that you start by browning-off an unpromising looking piece of meat with a few bits of veg and some spices and you end up with something full of deep flavours which is soft and meltingly delicious.

Well, now I am officially “between jobs” I can slow-cook whenever I want to. So, in attempt to make Saturday-night-in-with-a-DVD a bit more of an event, last night we had a bit of an Italian extravaganza.  Pre-dinner Campari and Sodas, a pretty decent Osso Buco and a nice bottle of red started proceedings and then we settled down to watch Godfather 2 (continuing the Italian theme, you see).

Osso Buco is traditionally made with a slice of veal shank but last night I made it with a similar pork cut. I’m not squeamish about veal – quite the opposite actually – but I found these pork shanks in Waitrose for £1.79 a few months ago and they seemed too much of a bargain to pass up. They’ve been waiting patiently in the freezer for me to give them a good send-off and last night I think I did.

I served the meat in the traditional style with a very simple but luxurious-feeling risotto containing saffron, butter and parmesan – Milanese Risotto – and a final piquant garnish of gremolata which is a sort-of-pesto made of garlic, parsley, lemon and olive oil.

And if you are like my mother and horrified by anything that needs to be cooked for 4 hours, do please give it a try because actually things like this require almost no attention so you can be getting on with other important tasks (more Gok Wan maybe?) while the meat slowly melts to perfection.

Don Corleone might call that an offer you can’t refuse.

Osso Buco 
– 2 pieces of Veal shank (or Pork if Waitrose are still doing these frugal fellows)
– One onion – chopped
– One carrot – chopped
– One stick celery – chopped
– One tomato – chopped
– Couple of cloves of garlic crushed
– A couple of pints of chicken stock (will depend on the size of your pan) – you’ll also need some of this for the risotto
– Knob butter/glug olive oil

Risotto
– Enough risotto rice (arborio/carnaroli – you know the drill) for two
– One finely chopped onion
– 2 generous pinches of saffron
– Big knob (maybe a matchbox size) butter
– Glug olive oil
– Handful of good parmesan finely grated
– Chicken stock

Gremolata 
– 2 lemons – rind finely chopped and juice
– Big handful finely chopped parsley
– 4 fat cloves garlic
– Glug of olive oil

Dredge the meat in seasoned flour and brown lightly in a frying pan on both sides. In another saucepan get the onion, carrot, celery and garlic softening in some butter. When the meat is browned on both sides, pour a little chicken stock into the frying pan to de-glaze. Pour this liquid and the meat into the saucepan containing the veg and turn the heat down low. Add the chopped tomato and a little more chicken stock to come about half way up the meat and leave on a very low heat for a good 2 and half hours, checking the liquid isn’t drying up from time to time.

While the meat is cooking get your gremolata done – simply put all the ingredients into a pestle & mortar and bash into a chunky paste – think pesto consistency.

When the meat is falling away from the central bones, start the risotto.

Boil the kettle and pour over the saffron strands. Melt half the butter in the pan and soften the onions verrrrry slowly in it – so they don’t take on any colour at all. Add the rice and stir to ensure all the grains are covered in the melted butter. Add the saffron water bit by bit, stirring all the time and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding any more. If you run out of saffron water, use the leftover chicken stock. Continue to add liquid until the rice is tender and the mixture thick and soupy. Add in the parmesan and stir to incorporate. Add the final knob of butter which should give the risotto a nice shine.

Serve the risotto in big bowls topped with the meat, a little of the cooking vegetables and a big spoonful of gremolata.

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