As a kid, growing up in North Beach San Francisco, I truly believed I was Italian until I was 13 or so. Wasn't so much that I had to be convinced of it or that I was denying my true heritage. I was simply at ease and immersed in the culture. Most of our building was old Italian folks, my neighbor was Italian, I assumed my friends were Italian, they spoke Italian, we ate Italian, I was Italian. It was just how I identified, my pronouns were He, Him, Italian.
Every Wednesday our favorite local restaurant served a tremendous Osso Buco. Originating in the Lombardy region of Italy, Osso Buco alla Milanese is a classic Italian comfort food. Literally translating to “bone with a hole” this simple dish of braised veal shanks in a white wine, crushed tomato and vegetable stew is traditionally served during the colder winter months as it is a hearty and soul warming dish. Often served with a risotto flavored and colored with saffron, perfumed with white wine, parmesan cheese and butter. This was my comfort zone, although if you weren't there by 6:30 it was sold out and that was that. As a chef I have made Osso Buco hundreds of times, almost always sticking to a familiar profile. I have toyed with red wine vs. white. Less tomato with more onion, basil and parsley vs. thyme and sage. I have honed the dish to perfection. Air drying the freshly cut shanks overnight with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Next, tying them, each and every one to help the delectable meaty morsels stay attached to the bone. After dredging them through a flour mixture and then browning them in a cast iron pan. Roasting my mirepoix and smashed garlic cloves, deglazing the pan with a robust red wine… Yup… Red wine, then adding copious amounts of tart, sweet crushed San Marzano tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and just a tiny pinch of crushed chili flakes. It has become a Fisher Family over the years and has treated us a few times on Christmas Eve. This year, I decided to add it to our holiday offerings and if you have decided to order it you are in for a memorable Christmas Dinner!
Why Piedmontese?? Great question… First off, the piedmontese region of Italy is known for its beef. And when thinking through the profile that I was going to offer with this spectacular creation, I was doing a little research on foods of the Piedmontese region of Italy. For years, true Piedmontese beef has been considered by many to be one of the most premium breeds available. The breed actually has a mutated gene that has occurred over centuries, causing the breed to be a faster growing breed or what is sometimes referred to as “double muscling”. All mammals have the myostatin gene, a gene that acts as a muscle tissue inhibitor, restricting or slowing muscle growth. However, in the case of Piedmontese cattle, the gene naturally mutated resulting in unrestricted muscle development. Muscle development in Piemontese cattle averages 14 percent higher than in most other breeds, and the Myostatin gene also helps to provide the consistent tenderness of Piemontese beef. Piedmontese beef is also leaner than traditional American beef. Beyond the beef, one of my favorite wines, Barolo, “The King of Wines” comes from this region as well as one of my favorite nuts, especially around the holidays, Hazelnuts or Nociolla. Add to that another Piedmontese agricultural offering, Arborio rice for risotto, and it was meant to be. Braise the veal shanks for 3 hours in the vegetable and Barolo, till the succulent meat barely clings to the marrow bone. Served on a carrot and Arborio rice risotto, with a Hazelnut Gremolata… Buon Appetito!
What is Gremolata you ask… Here is what Merriam-Webster says; a seasoning mixture consisting usually of grated lemon zest, minced garlic, and minced parsley that is used especially with osso buco
Ours However will have roasted and crushed Nocciola and as you sprinkle this mixture over the hot risotto, with the braised Veal shanks and the Barolo and San Marzano tomato sauce, the citrus and parsley will come to life and your Christmas will be made!
See ya at the counter!