Sometimes my favorite way of planning a dinner is to just wee what's on special in the market. It was my lucky day when the had a package of veal shanks on special. Normally, they are not very affordable, but this gave me a good head start on an affordable gourmet dinner. I love osso buco but make it only rarely. When I do, there are several ways I can do it. Cook it all in the oven, a half-day process. I can do it in the pressure cooker, which really cuts down the time to under an hour. And sometimes I do a combo of the two, undercooking the meat slightly and then finishing in the oven, yielding a nicely browned product and enabling me to roast potatoes along with it. Today, though, I was going all pressure cooker. I didn't have enough potatoes to roast, but going through the produce bin, found 3 turnips I had picked up but not used yet. Along with the 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes I had, I thought I could make things work.
First I peeled the potatoes and turnips and quartered them. I started boiling some water for them. My idea was to mash them, hoping the combination would work well. I boiled them with a clove of garlic and set the drained items aside, covered, for later.
When I do Osso Buco, I keep it simple. First I julienned some carrot and celery. I thinly sliced some garlic and onions to go along too as my mirepoix. One of my nice purchases on my return from my Oregon trip last year was a nice bottle of local olive oil. I had stopped for a 5 minute stop at a place called the Olive Pit, in Corning CA. Over an hour later, after trying samples of probably 40 olive oils, balsamic vinegars, olives and other goodies that they have in their tasting room, I walked out with bottles of regular olive oil, EVOO and both white and black truffle oil.
I had both their special EVOO as well as a milder oil for cooking, a fine EVOO for finishing dishes and enough types of pickles, olives and pickled okra to supply friends with plenty of souvenirs.
So I used some of the good cold-pressed olive oil from the local trees in NoCal to brown the shanks, which I had salted, peppered and dusted with flour. They browned nicely and I removed them from the pressure cooker.
I added more olive oil to the brown bits, lowered the temp and added my mirepoix.I sauteed them until they had softened somewhat. In the meantime, I chopped up a bunch of fresh parsley and a few cloves of garlic and put it in a bowl with a good dose of zested lemon peel. This gremolata was both to be tossed into the cooking pot and also be used as a garnish on the osso buco.
After the veggies had softened, I used a bit of wine to scrape up the browned stuff. I used a Curran 2007 Gewurtztraminer, finding that whites go better with osso buco. Besides, it's one of my favorite wines, so I was planning on opening something good to drink. Might as well cook with a good wine too!
I chopped up some fresh basil and added it, diced up a fresh tomato and then tossed some of the gremolata on top. I added the browned shanks back on top of the veggies, poured in some more wine, added sea salt, fresh cracked black Tellicherry pepper, thyme, tomato paste and some beef broth and sealed up the pot. I've had this pressure cooker for about 15 years and love what I can do with it and how it works. I brought it up to pressure and set the timer for 45 minutes.
On to the next part of the project. I poured myself a glass of the wine and prepared some snow peas in the pod for steaming. I then took the potatoes and turnips, mashed them with cream, butter, salt and pepper (ok, so this is not a dietetic meal!) and set them aside to keep warm.
I decided this was not a meal for paper plates and got out the china. Good food seems to taste better on nice dinnerware.
Forty five minutes later I removed the pressure cooker from the heat. I usually use the quick method of opening the pot so I placed it in the sink and ran cold water over it until the pressure dropped enough to open it. What a beautiful sight and aroma! I put the pot back on low heat with another few spoonfuls of the gremolata for a few minutes to thicken the sauce a little more.
The drained potatoes, turnip and garlic went into a small pot along with cream, butter salt and pepper. As soon as the cream and butter had warmed I took it back off and mashed it all top a nice consistency. The snow peas went into the microwave steamer. I've found that for simple fresh steamed veggies the microwave does them perfectly. The shanks were ready. It was time to plate.
The peas and the mashed potatoes/turnips went on the china first. Each plate got a shank, with the mirepoix veggies on the side and the sauce spooned on top. Topping it all was a final toss of the fresh gremolata. The scent wafted through the room. I could hardly wait to take a bite.
The veal was meltingly tender, with a thick, flavorful sauce. The mirepoix had cooked down into a delicious accompaniment to it. The richness of the osso buco was accented by the fresh flavor of the gremolata. It was nicely balanced and went well with another glass of the Gewurtztraminer. The mashed turnips and potatoes were a surprise, one of those “sum of the parts” type dishes where the combination turns out perfect.
Eventually, I got to the “prize” of the osso buco---the marrow. Rich does not describe it. Words cannot describe it. It was a few forkfuls of insane goodness. I ran the tip of the steak knife into the opening of the bone to get out every last drop.
Afterwards, sipping another glass of the Gewurztraminer, I thought over had the meal had gone together. Considering that when I walked into the market I had no plan of what to make, the dinner had gone exceedingly well, proving again that sometimes impromptu planning can work out great!