We don’t always cook Italian food, but when we do….
it results in a meal far too extravagant for our weekday selves. Weekday Rasha K. is usually prostrate on the couch by 7pm, having eaten leftovers from the prior night’s experiment, while Rasha S.’s weeknight routine is feeding a picky toddler with a surprisingly gourmet palate (Aida is our harshest critic). That being said, Memorial Day, with its three-day weekend, seemed ripe for confining ourselves in the kitchen: it was cloudy, kept threatening to rain, and Sunday was particularly dank and cold. Like any modern, chosen family, we are a melange of culture and ethnicity. Rasha S. is married to a French-Canadian Italian who also happens to be a phenomenal cook, and Rasha K. *thinks* she’s Italian (23&Me says 33% of my genome is born to eat pasta!). As you might imagine, with literally so many cooks in the kitchen, we don’t let the tradition of Italian Sunday Dinner go by the wayside. In our three years of friendship, it’s been an excuse for us to get together, drink wine, binge on carbs, and lie around afterwards. There is always a charcuterie plate in reach. Like Thanksgiving every weekend, except with random Italian slang (cavalo!) and the Spotify “pizza making playlist” blaring in the background. This dreary Sunday, though, meatballs, sausage, and spare ribs in red sauce (Italian Sunday sugo) served with homemade pasta was too tame for our tastes. After getting over the shock of the price of veal shanks, we decided we wanted to tackle something none of us had ever made before: osso bucco alla Milanese. Osso bucco quite literally means “bone with a hole,” but it is also a delicate meal of cross-cut veal shanks braised with fresh vegetables, white wine, and a thyme bouquet until the veal is falling off the bone and feels like velvet in your mouth. We served this over a porcini risotto (traditionally Milanese style is served with saffron risotto), and afterwards dove into a massive tray of THE BEST creamy but airy tiramisu.
We suggest buying your cross-cut veal shanks at your local butcher, but in a pinch, a specialty grocer like Whole Foods or Wegman’s will do. Mayflower Poultry Company in Cambridge is particularly good for specialty meats. Cuts of veal should come from the center of the shank with the most marrow. 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick is appropriate for cooking; any larger and you may have to increase cooking time. When making the sofrito (vegetable base of onions, carrots, & celery) we prefer it to be finely chopped or minced so that the veggies don’t overwhelm the texture of the veal when served.
While this blog was founded to preserve and disseminate Palestinian food traditions, as in life, sometimes it’s enriching to venture into different territory. Whether Palestinian or Italian, the values around nurturance through good food, family, and community remain the same. Enjoy this week’s departure from the norm!
Osso Bucco alla Milanese
4 Cross-cut veal shanks, 2 inch thickness
Flour for dredging shanks
Salt & Pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 cup tomatoes (optional), peeled and chopped (our faves here and here)
1 cup white wine
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied into a bouquet
2 bay leaves
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour some flour on a plate and add salt and pepper to the mix. Dredge veal in the flour, shaking off excess flour, then transfer to a plate. In a 6 quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 veal shanks at a time and brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the veal shanks to a plate. Do not clean out the Dutch oven; we want to cook the vegetables in the veal drippings and browned bits to make the sofrito base of the meal. To the Dutch oven, heat a little more olive oil and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir them about 10 minutes until soft. While they cook, pluck 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme and tie them into a bundle with kitchen twine. Then add in the tomato paste and stir until combined. To the mixture, gently place the browned veal shanks in the pot, along with 2 bay leaves, the thyme bundle, wine, chicken or beef stock, and 1 cup of water. As you bring this mixture to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, as well as add in the grated orange peel.
- When mixture is simmering, take it off the stove, cover Dutch oven with its lid, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the efficiency of your oven and the thickness of the veal shanks. You may remove the veal shanks and transfer the pot back to the stove over medium heat to reduce the liquid, but we skipped this step. Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Serve the shanks over risotto (recipe is up next), and sprinkle some chopped parsley if you wish.
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (find them at specialty stores such as Capone’s in Sommerville)
3. Turn off the heat and add in butter, grated Parmesan, and a couple of drops of truffle oil to the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.
Grated dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1. Mix espresso, 1 tablespoon sugar, and Port OR Marsala (we had Port in the kitchen. It’s a great stand-in for Marsala). Put the mixture aside and let it cool.