Tuesday, February 14, 2006
What We Do For Love (We Braise!)
Isaac and I are pretty much anti-Valentines Day. We don't understand why couples go and waste their hard earned money on cutesy white teddy bears with red ribbons around their necks, heart shaped boxes of chocolates that you can buy any other time of year, and marked up dinners at crowded restaurants with hasty service--all for a silly holiday that Hallmark invented. Concerning Valentines Day, we have a few rules for each other: Do not buy me any flowers, especially red roses. Do not buy me any boxer shorts with hearts on them. Do not buy me candy, stuffed animals, greeting cards or anything related to Valentine's Day. Do not take me out to dinner on Valentine's Day. Maybe the day before or the day after, but never on.
Which doesn't mean that we don't like to do nice things for each other though. We just don't want to be caught up in the whole sickeningly cutesy commercialism of the whole thing. I don't want to be the girl at the crowded restaurant wearing the pink flirty, feminine outfit (because it's Valentines Day, you know, you have to wear something romantic looking) clutching a red rose and a teddy bear, and he doesn't want to be the fool dressed up in a shirt and tie getting his wallet cleaned out by an expensive prix fixe menu. So we do other things instead. This year, I decided to perform a labor of love that in my opinion, outdoes all the bouquets, cheesy balloons and chocolate hearts. For "Valentines Day" this year, I made osso buco for my man. (It's in quotes because I didn't really make it on Valentine's Day; I made it two days prior.)
The great thing is that he thinks that this was a complete labor of love, but in truth, the dish that earned me brownie points for, like, forever was the easiest thing to make. With a little inspiration from Eat, Drink & Be Merry's Osso Buco post and a brand new 7.25 Le Creuset Dutch Oven (which I happened to get for a steal at $125), I was totally set.
My "other" baby
Actually, the hardest part of making this dish wasn't even in the actual preparation but rather in finding a place that sold good veal shanks at a good price. I knew that places like Whole Foods and Gelsons sold them, but then again, I also knew that with their prices, I'd be better off going to a restaurant. Since I was already in Burbank, I swung by Magnolia Blvd where there are two markets--Handy Market and Monte Carlo Market--that may have the goods for a better price. The first one, Handy Market, was out of veal shanks, so I kept my fingers crossed as I drove down the street to place number 2. I had to wait a little as there was a bit of a crowd at Monte Carlo's meat and deli counter that afternoon, but the wait turned out to be well worth it--I got 4 shanks for 20 bucks and change, and I was on my way home to cook my "Anti-Valentines Day" dinner.
Allright, here's the lowdown on what I did, pretty much adapted from Little Miss Big Head's recipe:
4 veal shanks, patted dry
flour for dredging
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 rosemary sprig (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig (or 1/2 tsp dried)
3 cups chicken or veal stock
-Tie kitchen twine securely around veal shanks to secure meat to the bone. Dredge lightly in flour, dusting off excess.
-Heat butter or oil in dutch oven over medium high heat and add veal shanks, browning on each side. Remove shanks from pan and set aside.
-Add vegetables to pan and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until tranluscent. Stir in tomato paste. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits. Cook until liquid is reduced by about half.
-Add shanks back to the pan and add 2 cups of the stock along with the herbs. (Make a bouquet garni with cheesecloth and twine if desired; I had no cheesecloth so I just threw everything into the pot) Return to a boil and reduce heat to low.
-Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, turning meat and adding remainder of broth occasionally until meat is tender.
I got the good dishes out for this one--I served the osso buco over a bed of linguine in our wide rimmed Pottery Barn pasta dishes. Braising has become one of my favorite cooking methods: high quality results for low maintenance work, a plus in any lazy gourmand's book. The meat was like butta', so tender that it literally fell off the bone. The braising process also melted all that lovely connective tissue up, giving us some gelatinous goodness with every bite as well as some luscious bone marrow to enjoy at the end. Our sauce, made hearty by our mire poix (carrot, onion and celery combo) reduction, was perfect over the al dente linguine. On the side, a bowl of brussels sprouts sauteed with olive oil and garlic to add some greenery.
Look, they're like little green hearts!
A labor of love? Well, yes and no. Yes because he's the love of my life, but no because making this delicious dish was a cinch!
And to all of you...Happy Valentine's Day. Sorta.