My willingness to buy premium products can seem senseless at times (like Jeni's ice cream), but even I can draw the line at the point of ridiculousness.
We were in Formaggio Kitchen to pick up a few things for dinner - on the menu was osso buco, which is usually made with veal shanks but unfortunately Whole Foods had sold out the day before (note to self, don't wait until Sunday morning to look for veal shanks). The Whole Foods butcher offered me beef shanks instead, which are a fraction of the cost of veal, but due to their more robust beefiness, I was contemplating whether I should use beef stock instead of the more commonly used chicken stock. Of course, I left Whole Foods without making up my mind, and decided when we popped in to Formaggio later that morning, I could always pick up some beef stock there.
Formaggio had plenty of beef stock in their freezer, but when I pulled out a quart, I noticed the container cost $14.95. $14.95!!! For a quart of beef stock? I'm sure it's delicious, they know what they're doing there, but I wasn't about to spend as much on stock as I did on the organic beef, the main component of our meal. So boxed chicken stock it is for tonight.
This is my first time making osso buco this winter, and I've never used beef shanks, so I turned to the trusty Internet to see what people have done. Turns out beef requires just some extra cooking but the recipe is essentially the same. Which is fine, since I was organized and had plenty of time to cook on this Sunday afternoon.
Since I hadn't really bothered to research variations before, I'd never noticed that osso buco recipes are almost all the same. They consist of a) a meat shank (veal, beef, pork or lamb can be used), b) mirepoix of onion, carrot, celery and garlic, c) herbs (rosemary, thyme and bay leaf usually), and d) liquid (red or white wine, plus chicken, beef or veal stock). The amount of tomatoes is the one ingredient that varies considerably from recipe to recipe. My old standby (a very old recipe from Christine Cushing and Food Network Canada) uses at least a cup of tomatoes, which I find made for a runny sauce. The version that I eventually settled on uses 1 tbsp of tomato paste as I prefer less tomato-ness, and was also unusual in that it included a 1/2 cup of dark rum.
Here is my mise en place - notice the size of the beef shanks? Two shanks weighing 3 lbs total! Keep in mind that this is two dinners for the two of us.
This is the final product, served with gremolata on top, lots of gravy, mashed potatoes, and sauteed swiss chard:
And the verdict on the recipe? Delicious! The flour thickens up the sauce nicely, the beefiness of the meat is somehow more satisfying (though less delicate), there's really no hint of tomato and the rum adds an unusual dimension that I can't describe. It doesn't taste like rum obviously since the alcohol was cooked off, but I think it added a subtle caramel sweetness. I don't think the organic boxed chicken stock ruined the sauce. The gremolata added a lovely herbaceous zing from the combination of parsley and lemon zest - made me wonder why I'd never bothered to make one for osso buco before. It was nice to venture outside of the norm and not rely on an old standby - I'll need to branch out more often in the future!