Osso Buco

The gremolata is the secret

Lately, peasant food is all the rage. Dishes that used to be inexpensive and called for ingredients most people would not use have begun to cost more than a steak.

Consider Osso Buco. My wife wanted me to make the classic Italian poor man’s stew recently so I went to pick up some ox tail. (I know, you’re thinking doesn’t that call for veal shanks? But years ago I saw a TV chef prepare them this way so I gave it a whirl.) Much to my surprise, the humble ox tails cost almost as much as a lamb roast or cheap steak per pound. Ox tail used to be something a butcher would almost want to give away.

I chose to use the tail because I thought it would make the perfect serving size. I planned to serve it traditionally, which meant over a bed of Milanese risotto. Unfortunately I did not have any bone marrow to spare for the rice, so I decided to make a mushroom risotto finished with cream and saffron. You can also serve osso buco over polenta or Cannellini beans.

All in all the dish came out pretty well, but for the price I paid for the ox tail I expected far better. The meat was difficult to eat and though slow cooked was still a little stringy. Now if I had paid what I expected for this cut of meat both of these things would not have been an issue. (I could have used lamb (yes, lamb) shanks for about the same cost, which is what I planned to do in the future. Katherine today brought home veal shanks and Cannellini beans and I can take a hint.)

The other issue was that we could not get to the marrow in the ox tail, which is the best part of osso buco. Of course I could have chopped each tail-piece in half after cooking which would solve that problem.

Below is the recipe for both the risotto and the osso buco. A few notes. When using saffron always buy the threads. Kept in an airtight jar they will last forever. When ready to use grab a small pinch of threads, about 5-8, and crush them using a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, use the back of a spoon in a small bowl. Once the saffron is a powder, add two tablespoons of warm chicken stock and stir to mix the saffron into the liquid completely. You can also use warm vegetable stock or water. Add the saffron liquid to whatever dish you are preparing when it is almost done cooking. I used some of the liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms in the risotto as well as the osso buco. One ounce of dried porcinis can flavor up to four cups of hot water. (My wife thought that the porcini overpowered the saffron and the risotto should be flavored with one or the other. I disagreed.)

Osso Buco

  • 4-6 veal or lamb shanks
  • 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes crushed by hand
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 4 cups hot water
  • 2 carrots diced fine
  • 2 stalks celery diced fine
  • 1 onion diced fine
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • zest from one lemon
  • Salt/pepper

In a small bowl combine lemon zest and 1 tbsp parsley. Mix well and set gremolata aside. Soak mushrooms in 4 cups boiling water for about an hour. Coat ox tails in flour mixed with salt and pepper. Melt two tablespoons butter in a large pot and saute onion over low heat until it begins to brown. Add carrots and celery and sweat for about five minutes. Meanwhile squeeze the liquid from the mushrooms and chop roughly. Add chopped mushrooms and garlic to pot. Turn heat up to medium and brown the ox tails on all sides. Add wine and deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and 3 cups mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to low and partially cover pot. Cook until ox tails are done, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup porcini liquid from above recipe
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
  • ½ cup minced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5-8 saffron threads crushed and mixed with 2-3 tbsp warm chicken stock
  • Salt/pepper

Bring chicken stock to a low simmer on back of stove. Melt 1 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion to pan and saute until it turns translucent and softens. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add rice and stir well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Add ½ cup wine and cook down. Add porcini liquid and cook until absorbed. Continue to add a cup of stock until rice begins to soften but still has a bite. Add mushrooms and continue to add stock a cup at a time until risotto is creamy and soft. Add cream and saffron liquid and cook until thickened. Let stand on stove for 15 minutes before serving. Place a large spoonful of risotto on a plate, top with one ox tail and a ladle of liquid from the pan. Garnish with the gremolata.

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
This entry was posted in Dinner, Food, Italian, Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Osso Buco

  1. When you started talking ox tails I thought.. yup southern couple breaking through lol. But I love how the lab shanks came out. And the Risotto superb.

  2. We’ll start posting things like Boston baked beans, Maryland crab cakes and New Jersey turnpike stew to prove our bi-coastal cred!

  3. That dish is totally new to me..thank you for sharing
    I really admire the level of communication between you and your wife

  4. Yvette says:

    Osso buco is one of my favourites, and love making it in the traditional ‘Italian’ way served on piping hot polenta. I saw a recipe with orange gremolata the other day not quite the traditional recipe! Your dish would have warmed the soul!

  5. fatisrecipes says:

    I can’t get my head around eating ox tail. Something that hung on the end of a large bullock, swayed left and right, day and night, shoo-ing flying away from it’s backside……I don’t know why the thought of it just doesn’t sound pleasing… But all in all, I’d definitely love to try this dish with lamb.. :)

  6. I love ox tail, and we can´t get much here along the beef lines, so will give this variation on the recipe a go – what a great idea. We do get pork shanks though, so maybe I´ll have to try an Andalucián version of Osso Buco! And I love risotto of any kind…Please do post a recipe for Boston Baked Beans :) we eat loads of pulses here and I´ve been wanting to make them for ages.

  7. rsmacaalay says:

    I love ox tail I has a great flavour and texture that is really great for stews! I made osso buco before using shanks but this made me think to do it again using ox tail.

  8. I have not made this before but it does look delicious! The price for food has really escalated lately.

  9. Carolyn Chan says:

    Your mushroom risotto looks and sounds amazing !

  10. Lea Ann says:

    I think osso bucco may be my most favorite all time thing to prepare. And yes, veal shanks come with a hefty price tag here .. about $35 for two good sized shanks. Thanks for posting about ox tail. Every time I’m at the Oriental market I’m tempted to grab a package. So appreciate your review on what to expect. And yes, gotta have that marrow. :-)

  11. I absolutely love oxtail but since being in Mauritius hardly cook it as, like you say, it has become very expensive. Yor osso buco looks fabulous. :-) Mandy

  12. Terry Weber says:

    My Dad used to make oxtail soup which sounds disgusting to some, but it was only because no one had ‘invented’ a fancy foreign name for it like Osso Buco or Filet Mignon. It was a delicious hearty soup! Love your site, very helpful with a good tone.

  13. This looks so delicious..its been ages since my last osso bucco…must have one again soon!

  14. Caroline says:

    Wow, this looks absolutely delicious! I’m not sure if I’d be daring enough to eat ox tail, but you sure make me want to give it a try after drooling over your pictures and reading your commentary!

  15. Rita says:

    I love ossi buchi: they’re perfect in winter. They’re such a comfort food and my mom makes them so well… I actually never cook them, because she lovingly makes them for me… :P

  16. Karen says:

    I’m not a big fan of osso buco, but yours looks wonderful, as does your beautiful risotto. Using the liquid from dried porcini mushrooms is such a great way to add an earthy flavor to risotto. And now I’m hungry… :-)

  17. Both dishes sound delicious! I’ve been wanting to make osso buco for awhile but never had the nerve. I’ll definitely be trying it now!

  18. joshuafagans says:

    Nice effort! It looks good. I too find it funny that inexpensive cuts flank and skirt steaks spring to mind used to be the cheap way to go and now rival the expensive cuts!

  19. Yuri says:

    I love gremolata, tried it in one of Dorie’s recipes and I thought it was the best part of the dish. That mushroom risotto sounds dreamy :)

  20. Osso Bucco is such a great classic dish.

  21. eva626 says:

    omg this is my dream come true!!! great stuff

  22. ChgoJohn says:

    Risotto made with a cup of heavy cream? This I gotta try! And I never thought of using ox tail in osso buco, either — until now. Great post!

  23. wow, this looks like quite the meal. i’ve never heard of ox tail in osso buco before, but kudos to you for making a-go of it!

  24. We had the same problem with Ossobuco, stringy and difficult to eat so we tried lamb neck fillets (cheap) which were a bit better but ended up doing it with the lamb shank which is not cheap any more either but everyone was much happier. We served it on the risotto Milanese with gremolata too.

  25. ChefMom says:

    Hubby and I used to spend nearly every weekend in Italian restaurants or making Italian food. We seriously lived off of it. I don’t think I ever had Osso Buco though – and I’m not sure I could bring myself to eat ox tail. Well, maybe I could eat it, I just don’t think I could prepare it myself. The mushroom risotto though – right up my alley! Yum!

    • Spend the extra and get the shanks! Any woman who can make flawless pita bread can do this. I’m making this again tomorrow because as I mentioned Katherine came home with veal shanks. I can’t wait to try the beans instead of risotto.

  26. I would not have thought they would be so much either. The dish sounds delicious but it would be frustrating to pay that much for the meat and not be able to get to the marrow! The LA blogger bake sale last weekend was a kick and raised about $2300 for Share Our Strength (YAY) but I did NOT get good pics because it was SO crowded and took place in a small space. Was pretty much a hoot since many of the bloggers came dressed to kill like they were ready for a magazine cover shoot. L.A. is nuts I tell you. I tried to honor your request ;) but was not succesful! :( Sorry for the long comment!

  27. Sara says:

    I hear you. I think tongue may still be inexepensive. ;-)

    I do have to try this one day. It’s on my list.

  28. Ox tails are great…I admire your creativity! To some it may be less appealing to eat a baby calf than something hanging near an ox’s rump…I don’t mind either way.

    - Christina Marie

  29. jdubs says:

    i love gremolata!! i’ve only made gremolata butter rub all over and under the skin for roasting chicken so far though. that osso buco is making me drool.

  30. I’ve had oxtail before and I love it. I’ve never had osso buco, but your photograph makes it look really good :) Thanks for the tips on saffron as well, it’s something else I’ve never tried cooking with but I’ll definitely keep the tips for the future!

  31. xinapray says:

    Dang, that looks goooood! I love Osso Buco of both the beef and lamb varieties. Regarding your observation about the steep price of the ox tail, I think it’s because it’s become one of the in-style parts, just like cheek and neck.

    Thanks again for your visits to my blog!

  32. WoW!! Talk about a first class meal.

  33. Pingback: Osso Buco (via Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide) | My Grandparent's Kitchen

  34. ZestyBeanDog says:

    This look wonderful~ I’m going to make this very soon!

  35. missmaimai says:

    What a hearty meal! This will be our Sunday dinner :)

  36. This looks amazingly good…!! What a coincidence I have osso bucco defrosting for tonight… Wow I am so glad to know your blog… it’s awesome!! And, thank you for commenting on mine.

  37. Veronika says:

    After I began reading this, I was about to comment “… but I’d use lamb shanks”, then read on and saw that you (and a couple of those commenting) already thought of that. And yes, I detest the idea and the resulting market hype of the food fads – it hikes up the price of raw ingredients which used to be affordable, and then drops it when people get tired of the fad. Just sad.

    And yes, I have to agree with others, this looks wonderfully good and now I want to make it. Good pointer about buying saffron in threads, too!

  38. Damn straight. Butchers used to practically give lamb shanks away, now they charge an arm and a leg (pun sort of intended).

    Even chicken frames, that I use to make stock, supermarkets are starting to sell at inflated prices. This is the stuff they used to pretty much chuck straight in the dumpy out the back.

  39. c.david says:

    went to wal-mart last week for ox-tail $4.92 per # out of site but that is what I wanted so I took 3 packages home when I opened them there were 10 pieces that were total waste cartledge and skin, when I was a kid G-mom would send me to market and get ox-tail ,enough to feed a family of 6 for $.05 and sometimes the butcher didn’t even take my nickle. any way cooked the ox-tail and was very good.

  40. Pingback: Paw lickin’ good | Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

  41. Pingback: Osso Buco #2 | Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

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