When I think Osso Buco my mind immediately goes to the Italian classic done Milanese style. The rich and unctuous meat slowly braised in a deeply rich broth of wine, stock and tomatoes. The meat yields to the barest pressure of your fork while sauce mixes with the golden saffron risotto underneath. Just writing this makes me dream of cold nights in Italy warming my soul with meat and wine.
But that’s just the problem, this amazing dish is a staple of the winter, where you need the heavy and rich to take the chill off your skin and keep you warm on your journey home. But what are we, the devotees to low and slow braised proteins, supposed to do during the hot summer months? I thought I would never find the answer until the answer found me.
One of our purveyors brought over some samples of this new product, a 4 inch cut pork osso buco, and the gears in my head started spinning. Pork is much lighter than beef, takes very well to low and slow braises, and contains all of that lovely porky goodness that sends me over the edge. But how was I to prepare them? The classic Italian way with heavy flavors of red wine and beef stock would not do. No, to make this right we needed to travel outside of the norm and head to the south of France.
I took a page from my regional pork belly post and went with a Provencal flavor profile for this cut of pork. I needed to concoct my flavor profiles with a feathers touch. Not to many heavy flavors to overwhelm the pork, but not to light that the dish falls flat.
I started by seasoning the shanks with a little salt and then let them sit for just long enough for the salt to pull out some of the surface proteins to promote caramelization. Then I seared them in a glorious combination of pancetta and bacon fat, pancetta for the bouquet and bacon for its smoky salty goodness. Then I deglazed the pan with celery and onions sautéed till lightly golden. The herbs, tarragon, parsley, rosemary and chives were then introduced to party so the heat could bring out all of their floral flavors. Once the pan started smelling like the south of France in spring, I poured in lemon juice, chicken stock and a dry white chardonnay. The pork was added back to the pan; the ethereal broth was heated back to a boil and then placed in the oven for 3 hours.
The meat, the meat…. I umm sorry I was lost in the memory of that melty succulent pork. The meat was tender as pulled pork with the body and substance of the best pork roast. The sauce was mixed with a little brown sugar and reduced to gravy that should have been poured in a snifter and enjoyed like a fine cognac.
A fine main dish needs a great side, and here I present the pork with some fresh picked sautéed dandelion greens topped with bright lemon zest. The bitterness of the greens played perfectly with the sweet and tanginess of the pork and sauce. But if you are looking for a more substantial side try our apricot whole grain mustard polenta made with stone-ground apricot mustard, shaved parmesan, and rich chicken stock. The polenta turns this dish into an instant fall classic.