Sunday, May 10, 2020

Quarantine Cooking Series: Osso Buco with Polenta

This pandemic has forced us to get really creative with our virtual hangouts.  My sister had the fantastic idea of cooking a recipe together on Mother's Day.  It was the perfect activity for the family to do together remotely--everyone was able to participate, my brother on the East Coast could join, and my mom got a much-needed taste of non-Chinese food.  Also, we gifted her a brand new Dutch oven, so she was able to make use of it right away!

Aerial view of our stovetop from the portable webcam

My brother is teaching my dad how to open a bottle of wine, lol

A photo of us from my mom's perspective, in her kitchen.

We knew that my mom was sick and tired of her Chinese cooking with all of the restaurants being closed, so we had to think of something to make that was not Asian.  Wes and I often make osso buco in our Dutch oven, so it was the first idea that came to mind for me to suggest.  Everyone was on board, so we each grabbed our own ingredients and clicked into Google Meets on Sunday.  We had everything prepped and spread out, a laptop on the kitchen counter, and a webcam mounted to the top of the stove.  It was definitely the first time we've ever done this.  It was super fun to do this together, and then we all shared photos of our completed dishes when we were done!  We opted to make polenta to go with it this time, but pasta and crusty bread are two other great accompaniments to this dish.


Osso buco:
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 beef shanks (it's about 3 lbs.) - if you're fancy you should use veal
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2-3 stalks of kale, sliced
  • 4 white potatoes cut in half, or quarters if they're really big
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine (optional, but to my surprise, everyone had a bottle of red wine at home, even my parents)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (optional)


Osso buco:
  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Put the flour in a wide, shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef shanks in the flour, coating evenly, and shake off the excess flour.
  3. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the veal shanks, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Increase the heat to high, add the canned tomatoes, stock, thyme, kale, potatoes, and shanks. Bring to a boil. 
  5. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and cook until the shanks are fork-tender, about 2 hours.
  6. If the sauce is too thin, place the pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. 
Note: this recipe can also be adapted for the Instant Pot quite easily.  My brother made this with us using his Instant Pot and it came together much sooner and he did not have to use the oven at all.  The downside is that you don't get the browned bits that accumulate on the bottom of the Dutch oven in Step 4.  Still, he said that it turned out tender, robust, and delicious!
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan; pour cornmeal slowly into boiling water, whisking constantly until all of it is stirred in and there are no lumps.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until polenta starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, whisking every 5 to 6 minutes. When polenta is too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon. Polenta is done when texture is creamy and the individual grains are tender.
  3. Turn off heat and gently stir 2 tablespoons butter into polenta until butter partially melts; mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted (we skipped the cheese because I don't like it, but Wes garnished his polenta with it afterward).  Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. 

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