These super moist and tender veal shanks are braised in a rich tomato, white wine, and brown sugar-based sauce. The secret to this delicious Sweet and Savoury Osso Buco, is allowing the meat to cook slowly over low heat in a covered pan for hours. One cannot rush perfection and this osso buco recipe is most certainly perfect!
It’s wintertime here in Ontario, and I absolutely love it! Winter affords me the ability to prepare recipes that require a long cooking time, just like with these Sweet and Savoury Osso Buco. It’s hearty food like this that we crave in the wintertime, and I say take advantage of it! Eat as much as you can, because soon enough, summer will be here and it will too hot to heat up your kitchen!
If I’m being honest though, the hot and humid weather of summer doesn’t really stop me from cranking up the stove and/or oven. You can easily find me preparing soups or baking bread in the summer. And, when late August arrives, I break out my canning equipment and can tomatoes, pickles, beets, etc., for a week or two straight.
Even though I don’t mind working in a warm kitchen during the summer months, last year, I was smart and purchased an outdoor stove. It has three large propane-lit burners and I was able to do all of my canning out there. To be honest, I don’t think my glass-top stove could handle the weight of two canners and a pot or two of whatever I’m canning at the same time! Anyway, I digress! Let’s talk about osso buco!
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WHAT IS OSSO BUCO?
Sometimes written as osso bucco, or even ossobuco, it really sounds much more complex than it actually is! Osso buco literally translates to bone with a hole. True enough – each individual piece of osso boco has a big, marrow-filled bone in the center. It is a cut that comes from veal; a cross-cut shank or shin bone, to be exact.
Traditionally braised, the braising liquid is usually a combination of white wine and stock. The osso buco is browned first on both sides and then simmered in the braising liquid with garlic and onions for two or three hours. Italian osso buco will have carrots in the braising liquid too, but my version is untraditional and is a sweet sauce made with brown sugar and ketchup. I do include the stock and white wine though!
I’m not completely clueless, and I know there’s a lot of controversy out there surrounding the consumption of veal. It is, after all, a baby calf. I have heard even the most die-hard meat lover state that they will not eat veal for ethical reasons. I too, am a bit squeamish, but the veal I’m using comes from a local, organic, free-range farm where the animals are raised in natural conditions and treated humanely. Although veal is traditionally used for osso buco, it can be made with beef shanks instead.
SOURCING ORGANIC, FREE-RANGE VEAL
In Ontario, organic, free-range veal can be sourced from Ottawa Valley Meats. If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you might have read about OVM before. I use them for almost all of my meat-based recipes. The price is always good (they have great sales!) and I’m never disappointed with the selection. Plus, they deliver it right to my front door!
As for the veal from OVM, their website proudly states that they work with farms that only produce the cleanest, healthiest and ethically-raised local meats. All beef is Federally or Provincially Inspected according to Canadian Food Inspection standards. Once cut, the meat is then perfectly dry-aged for 28 days to enhance the already full flavour. And, the beef is 100% grass-fed, completely antibiotic and hormone-free. I love that for each product, they list the name of the farm it came from! You can find Ottawa Valley Meats here!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this Sweet and Savoury Osso Buco recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Olive Oil – I always use extra virgin light olive oil so that the flavour is muted. Olive oil has a high heat tolerance, so it’s perfect for browning.
- Osso Buco – These are veal shanks. For this recipe, you can use 2-6 shanks, depending on the size and how many people you are feeding.
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- Onion – I use yellow, white, and sweet onions interchangeably. Either of them will do just fine.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic will result in the best flavour every single time.
- Ketchup – The addition of ketchup adds sweetness and acidity to the sauce.
- White Wine – This adds complexity and flavour. If you want an alcohol-free version, just substitute the white wine with water.
- Bouillon Cubes – These intensify the meaty flavour.
- Dried Thyme – The thyme adds what I call homemade flavour!
- Brown Sugar – This will enrich, sweeten, and thicken the sauce.
- Tomato Paste – In addition to the ketchup, the paste will balance out the flavours and make the sauce more savoury.
Lord Byron’s Notes
Braising is slow cooking in a vessel that has a tight-fitting lid. The heavier the vessel and lid, the better your results, because it is important to lock in the braising liquid so that the osso buco is always kept moist. If you opt to cover a pan with aluminum foil rather than a proper lid, I cannot guarantee recipe success.
HAVE A DUTCH OVEN? USE IT!
A proper Dutch oven is the perfect cooking vessel to get this Sweet and Savoury Osso Buco just right. I have several to choose from. But, that’s because I have purchased them over the years and not all at once. And, because I cook and bake all the time. Dutch ovens are a huge investment, but they are very much worth it if you use it often enough. For this particular recipe, I used my 6.7 litre round Le Creuset. You can most certainly use a smaller or similar sized pot, depending on how many shanks you are preparing.
(Spellcheck is suggesting that I change litre to liter, but I cannot bring myself to do it! I may be wrong, but I think the United States is the only place where it’s spelled liter. Here in Canada, it’s litre!)
You most certainly can use an oval Dutch oven if that’s what you have! And, it does not need to be a Le Creuset brand either! In fact, I have a cheaper version that I often use. It’s a Pioneer Woman brand. I think I paid less than $50 for it! Essentially, if you have a cast iron pot with a heavy cast iron lid, then it will work perfectly as well. The key is to keep the heat and liquid into the pot, which will ensure that the osso buco cooks properly.
HOW TO MAKE SWEET AND SAVOURY OSSO BUCO
Step 1: Searing and making the Sauce
Please note that this recipe works for two to six pieces of osso buco. You do not need to alter the rest of the recipe based on whether you are preparing two pieces or six. Still use the same amount of ingredients. If you are preparing more than six pieces, double the rest of the ingredients. Also, be sure that the osso buco is in one layer in your pot. Do not stack, so be sure to use a pot with a large enough to accommodate all of the pieces.
Pat the osso buco dry with paper towels and season each side with the salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add the olive oil to your Dutch oven and place the osso buco, flat side down, into the pot. Sear for 2-3 minutes and turn over each piece to sear for another 2-3 minutes. Once done, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
Next, add the onion to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is cooked through. Add the garlic, stir into the onions, and cook for another 2 minutes. Next, add the water, white wine (or more water if you want an alcohol-free version,) ketchup, bouillon cubes, dried thyme, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Whisk until well combined.
Step 2: Braising the Meat
Use tongs to add the osso buco pieces back to the pot. Be sure to nestle them into the sauce so that they are touching the bottom of the pot. The sauce should be rising up the sides of the meat. Place a lid on the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, checking ever 30 minutes to see if the liquid has not evaporated too much. The sauce will reduce and thicken, but should never be lower than 1.5 inches in the pot. If the liquid evaporates too much, add water.
Once cooked, remove the ossu buco from the pot and carefully pour the sauce into a serving bowl or a little pitcher like you see in the photos. Serve the extra sauce on the side.
Lord Byron’s Notes
Osso buco has a tendency to fall apart. You can tie butcher’s twine around each piece before you begin to sear the meat if you wish to ensure the meat comes out of the pot in once piece. I did not use twice, but was very careful when removing the meat from the pot. I used a slotted fish turner to lift the meat out without break it apart. Remember, once fully cooked, osso buco is extremely tender!
Osso buco is quite filling, because the meat is very rich. I would assume that one per person is good, especially if you are pairing it with some form of carb-heavy side and a vegetable. However, please be fair warned that this Sweet and Savour Osso Buco is so good that one might not be enough to satisfy you! As you can see, I plated two per person with a good helping of steamed rice.
In most cases, osso buco is served with polenta or mashed potatoes. That’s because in most cases the meat is prepared with chopped tomatoes and carrots, so that the sauce is rather chunky. My version is sweet and savouy with a smooth tomato gravy-like sauce. Therefore, I thought rice was a perfect bed for the meat.
There are two sides that I can think of that would work perfectly with osso buco. First, the most obvious is mashed potatoes or a creamy polenta or grits. The key is to use a hearty side, but one with muted flavours so that the veal is the star. And, no matter what side you choose to pair the veal with, be sure to ladle over lots of that deliciously sweet and savoury sauce. It really is absolutely wonderful! Garnish according to your own tastes. I thought some finely chopped fresh parsley was enough. Enjoy!
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Sweet and Savoury Osso Buco
- 6 fillets osso buco (veal shanks)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 bouillon cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- fresh parsley for garnish
- Pat the osso buco dry with paper towels and season each side with the salt and pepper.
- Over medium-high heat, add the olive oil to a Dutch oven and place the osso buco, flat side down, into the pot. Sear for 2-3 minutes and turn over each piece to sear for another 2-3 minutes. Once done, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
- Next, add the onion to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is cooked through.
- Add the garlic, stir into the onions, and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Next, add the water, white wine (or more water if you want an alcohol-free version,) ketchup, bouillon cubes, dried thyme, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Whisk until well combined.
- Use tongs to add the osso buco pieces back to the pot. Be sure to nestle them into the sauce so that they are touching the bottom of the pot. The sauce should be rising up the sides of the meat.
- Place a lid on the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, checking ever 30 minutes to see if the liquid has not evaporated too much. The sauce will reduce and thicken, but should never be lower than 1.5 inches in the pot. If the liquid evaporates too much, add water.
- Once cooked, remove the ossu buco from the pot and carefully pour the sauce into a serving bowl or a little pitcher. Serve immediately.
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