Flavors of Lombardia: Ossobuco alla Milanese
Most Milanese recipes have preferred the use of veal over beef, even dating back to ancient times. Most epicureans speculate that this is due to the fact that the tenderness of veal cannot be matched by that of regular beef. While the cuisine of Lombardia is rich and varied, one of the region’s most revered signature dishes is the quintessentially staple of Milan, Ossobuco alla Milanese.
Arguably the most important factor in creating a delicious Ossobuco is picking the best quality meat for the dish. To select the most optimally tender veal it is important that each cut of meat not surpass 300 kilograms in weight and should come from a calf that was strictly milk fed. A cross-cut hind veal shank, 1.5 inches thick with a non-spongy middle bone filled with marrow, should ideally always be used. Bone marrow is critical in the preparation of Ossobuco because during the cooking process it melts down, producing the signature flavor of the dish. Traditional Ossobuco is made without tomatoes, although variations of the recipe were revised to include the addition of the tomato as early as the 1700’s, a point in which Italian cuisine was forever altered by the discovery of the tomato in the New World. Ossobuco is served with a unique Milanese condiment called gremolada, which helps to brighten the rich flavors of the dish with a kick of lemon, garlic and parsley.
Welcome a bit of Lombardia into your home tonight by preparing one of the region’s best loved dishes, Ossobuco alla Milanese. Buon proseguimento!
Ossobuco Alla Milanese
Recipe inspired by La Tavernetta da Elio (Milano)
For the Ossobuco:
4 hind cross-cut veal shanks, around 2/3 of a pound each (cut around the lower part of the veal where the bone is filled with marrow)
- 1 cup of white flour
- 3 ½ tablespoons of butter
- 1/4 of an onion, chopped
- 1 ladle of beef stock
- Salt to taste
For the gremolada:
- The zest of one lemon
- 1/2 a clove of garlic, minced
- 1 anchovy, deboned
- A handful of chopped parsley
In a large cast iron pot or dutch oven, add the butter and chopped onion. Lightly flour each veal shank and add them to the pot once the onion has begun to turn golden in color. Cook the shanks well, gently turning them over to brown on both sides while being careful not to puncture them. Add a ladle of beef broth and a good pinch of salt to the pot and cover. Set the burner to low heat and cook for an hour and a half until the sauce reduces and becomes thick. While the Ossobuco is cooking, prepare the gremolada. Mix together the lemon zest, chopped parsley, minced garlic and anchovy, combining the ingredients well. Anchovies are usually quite salty, but you can always add a pinch of salt to the mixture if you feel that it needs it. Five minutes before serving the Ossobuco, add a bit of the gremolada over the top of each veal shank. Ossobuco alla Milanese pairs well with Risotto Milanese or creamy polenta. Recipe makes 4 servings.