Oxtail and proper veal osso buco can be hard to find but more readily available is plain beef shin, cut into thick slices with the central bone removed.
The mission of the day was actually to create a dish to accompany a young, intense and firmly structured pinot noir from New Zealand’s Central Otago like Quartz Reef, hence the choice of a meat with a melting texture and rich flavour to plump out the tannins in the wine. When one thinks pinot, mushrooms and other lovely fungi always come to mind so to accompany the braise and to provide a funky foil to the beautiful perfume of the wine a porcini risotto was born.
With or without gremolata is always the burning questions when northern Italians discuss the perfect osso buco. Gremolata is a mix of equal quantities of grated lemon rind and finely chopped parsley plus a little minced garlic if liked. Some don’t care for it but I like the way that a tiny sprinkle lifts the richness of a dish.
Braised beef shin with red wine6 pieces thickly cut beef shin without the bone (about 1.2kg) – keep them wholeknob butter and 1 tbsp olive oil1 medium carrot, chopped into small (not tiny) pieces1 large onion, chopped1 leek (white part only), chopped250ml good red wine200ml beef or chicken stock2 tbsp tomato passata or finely chopped tinned tomatoes and juice2 sprigs thyme, finely choppedsalt and ground pepper2 tbsp plain flour mixed to thin paste with waterPreheat oven to 150C. Heat the butter and oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish and brown the shin on both sides. Remove. Saute the chopped vegetables in the same pan until softened. Place the meat on top and add the thyme, wine, stock, tomato and salt and pepper. Cover with a sheet of buttered baking paper and pop on the casserole lid. Bake in a very slow oven for about two and a half hours or until the meat is meltingly tender. Top up the liquid from time to time with water if necessary. Carefully remove the meat and slightly thicken the simmering sauce with just enough flour and water paste. Return the meat to the pan to mix around gently in the sauce. Check for seasoning.For the risotto:Make a porcini risotto by soaking half cup porcini in hot water for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid. Chop the porcini. Bring four cups stock plus the porcini liquid to a simmer in a separate saucepan. Finely chop half an onion and sauté with the porcini in butter and oil till translucent. Add one and a half cups risotto rice and stir well until some of the rice is opaque. Add a ladleful of stock and stir. Let bubble away gently and add more stock when nearly dry. Keep adding the stock in this way until the rice is just cooked. Stir an extra knob of butter and some Parmesan cheese through at the end.
To serve: Place some risotto on each plate and top with pieces of the shin and some sauce. Sprinkle with a little gremolata. Serve with a green salad or dish of green beans.