You may have had this in a finer Italian restaurant and not been a big fan. Many recipes call for braising the shanks in oil, which can make them a bit tough. Instead, this recipe uses pancetta, instead of olive oil, for the browning of the veal and cooking the vegetables.
Pancettais a type of dry cured meat. It is pork belly that has been salt cured and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic are often featured). You might be thinking Bacon in this recipe but I would not. The pancetta adds a very sensual flavor dimension.
So use it if you can. "Osso Buco" means "hole of bone" because the marrow provides the rich flavor to the sauce. A marrow spoon, one of those long skinny spoons found in your grandmothers sterling silverware set, would come in handy with this dish, as the succulent shank marrow can be tricky to extract if you are so inclined. The gremolata (parsley, lemon zest and garlic) is an important finishing touch for this dish, not to be missed. This is a dinner for a special occasion. Or just celebration of warmth returning to the landscape.
1/4 pound pancetta, diced 1/4 inch cubes (do not substitute bacon) or into strips.
2-1/2 to 3 pounds veal shanks (4 to 6 pieces 2-3 inches thick)
1/2 cup diced carrot (fairly small pieces)
1/2 cup diced celery (small pieces)
1 medium onion, diced into 1/4 inch pieces or strips.
2 Tbsp (about 4 cloves) chopped garlic (roast first if you have time)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 cups chicken or veal stock
Flour for dusting the meat before browning
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp Minced flat (Italian) parsley
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 Preheat oven to 325°F.
2 Heat a dutch oven on medium heat on your stovetop for about five minutes. Add pancetta to pan, cook, stirring occasionally. When the pancetta is crispy and most of the fat has rendered (about 5 minutes of cooking), remove the pancetta and set aside. Drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
Salt and pepper the veal to taste. Dredge the veal shanks through some flour, shake off any excess, and add the meat to the hot fat in the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and cook the meat on each side until well browned (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the shanks to a plate, set aside.
Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the dutch oven. Cook the onion mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent (about five minutes). Add the garlic and thyme. and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. (the veggies should just be starting to brown.)
Add the shanks and the pancetta back to the pan. Pour in the wine, and then add enough stock to come a little more than half way up the side of the shanks. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and place in preheated oven to cook at 300 to 325 until the meat is tender, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Combine the gremolata ingredients, place in a separate small serving dish.
Serves 4 to 6 (of course you can easily half the recipe) depending on how many shanks you have, one shank per person normally. Serve with rice. risotto or polenta . Sprinkle with gremolata at the table if you like.