Taking Cam & Lisa to Italy on the “cheap”

I love spending time with long-time friends .. folks that have been in your life for years and years .. just makes for a super fun evening.  Cam & Lisa were coming for dinner, and I decided to pull out “all the stops” and plan a creative menu that included things like ordering venison on-line and making a sorbet for a palate cleanser (I’ll post about this later!).

Venison Osso BuccoCurt ordered venison osso buco from an on-line source, D’Artagnan (they were having a free shipping offer, and we are all about finding a deal!).  Since I hadn’t yet gone out on a limb and made this before, I researched and read all sorts of recipes, but ultimately chose this one from the Madd Hatter’s Kitchen blog:

Venison Osso Buco
Serves 4

2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
9 juniper berries
4 venison shanks, cut 3 inches thick
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 cups white wine
7 cups meat stock, preferably beef
1 orange, peel removed in large pieces and juiced
1 lemon, peel removed in large pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For gremolata:
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
1 plump garlic clove, finely minced
Zest of small lemon, finely shredded

Place the bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, and juniper berries in a piece of cheesecloth and tie.

shanksPlace the venison shanks on a plate, standing on their cut ends. Tie each shank with a piece of kitchen twine tightly around their center, which will keep the meat from falling off the bone as it becomes tender. Trim the ends of the twine if needed. Salt the shanks lightly, with about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Dredge the shanks in flour, covering all sides of the shank thoroughly.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven. Shaking off the excess flour, place all of the shanks into the hot oil, standing on their cut ends. Brown each side well, 3 to 5 minutes each side. You will do this not only for the cut sides, but around the edges of the shank as well. Once the shanks are thoroughly carmelized, remove them to a fresh plate and drain the vegetable oil from the pot, taking care not to burn yourself and leaving the bits of crust and meat at the bottom.

oso buccoPour the olive oil into the dutch oven, continuing to keep heat at a medium high temperature. Add the onions, and stir them around for 3 to 4 minutes, letting them soften and help release the crusted bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the carrot, celery, the cheesecloth packet of herbs, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are wilted.

Clear a space in the center of the pot, and drop in the tomato paste. Cook the paste for about 1 minute, then stir it into the vegetables. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Raise the heat to high, and add the wine. Cook for 2 more minutes at a boil to burn off the alcohol. Finally, add the stock, citrus zests and juice, and another 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and bring mixture to a boil.

Cripps Dinner - 07Return the shanks to the pot, coating them with sauce, then standing them on their cut ends. If necessary, add a bit more stock to bring the liquid level back to the top of the shanks. Place the lid on the dutch oven and cook the shanks for 1 hour, reducing the heat so the sauce is at a steady simmer. Turn the shanks about halfway through to ensure the ends don’t dry out.

Uncover the pot and cook for another hour at a steady simmer. This time turn the shanks every 10 to 15 minutes to keep the meat from drying out. After this hour, your shanks should be fork tender and your sauce should be reduced to at least half of what it was at the start.

Pull the shanks out and place on a plate, covering with aluminum foil. Keep warm.

Set a mesh sieve above a saucepan, and strain the sauce, pushing all the thick tomatoes and the cheesecloth packet to extract as much sauce as possible. Return the sauce to the stove to keep warm and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Combine the gremolata ingredients and set aside.

When preparing to make this dish, I checked in with my buddy Ron (who is an excellent chef!) to get his input, and his thought was that that shanks would need 3 hours of cooking time to be fork-tender .. he was right .. two hours just wasn’t enough time.

celery root The Madd Hatter’s blog suggested serving the osso buco over risotto, which would likely be an excellent side, but I went a different direction and served with a potato – celery root mash:

Celery root potato mash

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1 celery root, peeled and cut into wedges of about the same size as potato
milk
butter
cream cheese
sour cream
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Place the potatoes and celery root into a pot, cover with water, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil on the stove.  Cook until tender, then drain and return to the pot.  Add a bit of butter and cream cheese, and mash with a potato masher.  Stir in some sour cream, salt & pepper.

Yum!  This was so good, even as ugly as a celery root is, I plan to always have one on hand when I make mashed potatoes!

To serve, place the meat standing upright on the plate; mound some potatoes directly adjacent; spoon 2-3 ladles of sauce over the meat & plate; top the venison shank with a sprinkling of gremolata, and voila .. dinner is served!

One final note about the shanks .. Curt has since decided he wants to order the tiny forks so he can retrieve the tasty bone marrow to spread on toast rather than let our Saint Bernard, Bentley, get it all!

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