Osso buco refers to a cross-cut piece of beef shank that exposes the “hole in the bone” and therefore, the bone marrow. The Italian specialty, Osso Buco, is a slow-cooked stew of cross-cut veal shanks braised with white wine and vegetables. Not being a veal fan, I had never made it until I learned about the “young beef” sold by Jenny Kahrl of Montana Red Devon. She and Wyatt Nelson, when he used to oversee the meat department at the Bozeman Community Food Co-Op, made a local market for her “young beef,” which kept the animals in our local market instead of selling them off to far away feed lots to mature. The story is one of doing things differently, for the animals and for local food economies, so I started buying young beef cuts from Montana Red Devon.
I also buy a quarter bison from North Bridger Bison every 18 months or so and recently decided to make good with the “soup bones” that come with the quarter processed by Amsterdam Meat Shop. Was I ever surprised when I opened the package—big beautiful osso buco cuts! So, scratch the bone broth, I decided to make a proper Osso Buco with the bison shanks. Traditionally, white wine is used with the veal, but I swapped it for red with the bison which made a wonderful stew.
6–8 servings; adapted from "Osso Buco," Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux
- 6–8 pieces osso buco cut shanks, young beef or bison about 4 pounds, more or less by a pound is fine
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp oil or lard
- ½ cup wine (white for young beef, red for bison or beef shanks)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 7 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
- 1 strip orange or lemon zest
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 sprigs thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
- 5 sprigs parsley
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 2 allspice, whole or ½ teaspoon dried
- 2 cups wine (white for "young beef," red for bison or beef)
- 3 cups chicken or beef broth Swanson, Bare Bones, or Imagine (low sodium if available)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
Gremolata: ¼ cup minced parsley, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Serve with polenta (4 cups water: 1 cup polenta), risotto, or potatoes and bread with a hefty crust for enjoying the bone marrow
Preheat oven to 325°F and put rack in lower third.
Pat the shank pieces dry and sprinkle both sides with salt. In batches of about 3 or 4 shanks at a time, brown on both sides in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Use a tablespoon or so of oil/lard per batch, remove shanks to a holding bowl when done. Deglase pot after each batch with about ¼ cup wine, scraping up browned bits and pouring over the shanks in bowl. Anticipate about 5 minutes per batch of 3 or 4 pieces.
Melt butter in the pot used to brown the shanks. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, orange or lemon zest, and all the herbs and spices. Cook over medium-high heat until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, broth, reserved shanks and all liquid, turn up heat and bring to boil. Lower heat to maintain a slow simmer and place the covered pot in the oven. Cook for 2–3 hours, turning the meat a few times during cooking. The shanks are done when they are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, thyme, parsley stems, and garlic cloves. The sauce should have a loose-creamy consistency, if you wish, reduce it further by boiling on the stovetop. Taste sauce and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add half the gremolata and pass remaining at the table. Serve on warm plates or shallow bowls with polenta or other creamy base to contain the broth.
Recipe Notes / Tips
- As with all stews, you can make this in advance, cool the pot, then refrigerate for a day or two. The flavors improve and you can remove the hardened fat that forms on top.
- Rosemary is wonderful with orange, so swap our the thyme for 2 or 3 branches of rosemary. Or use both!
- Traditionally, osso buco is prepared with white wine but you can use white or red, depending on what you're going for. I like to use white for young beef (a more humane veal alternative, see the Montana Red Devon video on the Bozeman Community Food Coop site) and red for bison or beef.
- To make polenta, bring 4 cups of water to boil then add a teaspoon of salt and slowly pour in 1 cup polenta/grits (Bob's Red Mill) while stirring constantly. Cook at a low simmer until soft textured, about 15 minutes, stirring now and then mostly so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add a couple tablespoons each olive oil, butter, and grated Parmesan.