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Ossobuco is a Milanese dish made from veal shanks. Traditionally it's braised, but I had a hypothesis that it's the sort of thing that could also benefit from sous-vide cooking. On 11 July 2014 I started my own version based on a number of recipes. One of the conclusions was that the sous-vide hypothesis was incorrect: it's better braised. See the discussion for more details.

On 4 July 2015 we prepared it again, without using this recipe. Maybe as a result, the quantities were a bit uneven, but I've updated the recipe with some of the details.

The following contains two different variants: braised and sous-vide. The ingredients are the same, but the sequence is different. In each case, it should be served with gremolata and risotto alla Milanese.

Braising

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
1 kg       ossibuchi (about 3)       1
      flour       1
      olive oil       1
200 g       onion       2
10 g       garlic       2
130 g       carrot       2
100 g       celery       2
      olive oil for frying       2
400 g       can tomatoes       3
50 ml       wine       3
200 ml       water       3
3       sprigs rosemary       3
3       sprigs thyme       3
3       bay leaves       3
10 g       salt       3
5 g?       lemon rind       3
      basil (see discussion)       3
      sprig of thyme       3
      parsley root       3
      parsley       4
      bay leaf       4

Also prepare gremolata and risotto alla Milanese.

Preparation

  1. Coat the meat in flour and fry in olive oil until browned.

  2. Finely chop onion, carrot and celery. Crush garlic. Fry the onion in a cast-iron casserole with olive oil until translucent, then add the other ingredients and fry until a little soft (“soffritto”).

  3. Add meat, tomatoes, wine, water and herbs. Bring to the boil, place in an oven at 150° and braise for 2 hours.

  4. Garnish with parsley and bay leaves. Serve with gremolata and risotto alla milanese.

Sous-vide

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
1 kg       ossibuchi (about 3)       1
      flour       1
      olive oil       1
10 g       garlic       2
50 ml       wine       2
3       sprigs rosemary       2
3       sprigs thyme       2
3       bay leaves       2
200 g       onion       3
130 g       carrot       3
100 g       celery       3
      olive oil for frying       3
400 g       can tomatoes       4
200 ml       water       4
10 g       salt       4
5 g?       lemon rind       4
      basil (see discussion)       4
      bay leaf       4
      sprig of thyme       4
      parsley root       4
      parsley       5
      bay leaf       5

This is left over from an earlier attempt. As mentioned above, I probably won't try this again.

  1. Coat the meat in flour and fry in olive oil until browned.

  2. Crush garlic. Coat meat with garlic and place in bags. Cover with the herbs and add wine. Seal, taking care not to suck the wine back into the sealer, and cook for 48 hours at 59°.

  3. About 2½ hours before serving, finely chop onion, carrot and celery. Fry in olive oil until soft but not brown (“soffritto”).

  4. Add tomatoes, water and herbs. Bring to the boil and simmer until nearly dry.

  5. Remove the ossibuchi from the cooker and drain the pouches into the soffritto. Place the ossibuchi in a plastic container, drain enough water from the cooker to ensure that the container will not tip over, and replace in the cooker and cover to keep warm:


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    Bring back to the boil and reduce until almost dry.

  6. When the soffritto is finished, place in a serving dish with the ossibuchi on top and serve with gremolata and risotto alla milanese.

Discussion

This recipe bases on no fewer than eight I have seen: four online relating to sous-vide techniques, four in books with traditional techniques. Later I found a ninth recipe. None of them agreed with each other:

  1. This recipe wants to cook them at 137° F (corresponds to an unsettable 58⅓°) for 24 to 36 hours. It includes separate marrow bones and capsicum, and the soffritto is made with spring onions. It has no tomatoes, only a little tomato purée. It also uses cream, which sounds completely wrong to me.

  2. This one, a suspect URL that may change, wants 61° and 48 to 72 hours. It uses pancetta and lots of garlic. It cooks the soffritto with the shanks.

  3. This one wants 62° for 72 hours, and notes that the result is flaky, dry, and apparently to his taste. It also uses pancetta, but no soffritto and no tomato (once again just a little tomato purée).

  4. And this one describes his experiment of cooking at 60°: he removed one bone after 12 hours and found it excellent, while the second, cooked for 22 hours, was too long. As he acknowledges, apart from the cut of meat it doesn't have very much to do with ossobuco.

  5. The recipe in Time-Life's „Die Küche in Italien“ is one I have made before. It appears to be relatively authentic. Cooking time is 1¼ hours.

  6. Time-Life's „Rind und Kalb“ has a very simple recipe without soffritto or just about anything: only meat, butter, flour, wine and broth. Cooking time is a little over an hour. The recipe didn't look very good to me.

  7. The Italian Cooking encyclopedia b y Lifetime distributors Anness Publishing has a soffritto without onions but with “2 garlic cloves”. Cooking time is 2 hours.

  8. Lorenza de' Medici Stucchi's “Italy: The Beautiful Cookbook” has a simple recipe without soffritto, without tomatoes, but with an anchovy thrown in. Cooking time is 1½ hours.

  9. I didn't look at Ada Boni's “Italian Regional Cooking” until after cooking the dish. It includes a recipe similar to Lorenza de' Medici's recipe: tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, no soffritto. Cooking time is 2 hours.

It was clear from the outset that I wanted a soffritto. But how to cook it? In the end I decided to cook the meat only with herbs and a little wine, and to start the soffritto 2½ hours before serving. It's not clear that that's the best way, and possibly it would make more sense to cook it with the meat, the way recipe 2 does, since they're supposed to flavour each other.

Butter or olive oil? Given that the dish comes from Milano, butter would seem more appropriate. But most of the recipes suggest olive oil, and since it's served with risotto alla milanese, it seemed a good contrast.

Herbs: some ask for basil, which seems wrong. Most ask for bay leaves, which I only used in the soffritto. They probably belong in the meat as well, so they're in the recipe above. I also used parsley root, which is in none of the recipes, because I had some and it sounded like a good idea. It didn't make an obvious difference.

And the results? They looked like the image at like recipe 3, but the meat wasn't dry. It was barely pink and juicy. Yvonne didn't like it as much as a traditional ossobuco: it was too firm for her liking, and the flavours weren't as pronounced. So: do we try again or just assume that this is a dish where sous-vide techniques don't have any advantage?


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