This osso buco was delicious, and even though I made it, I feel like I had very little to do with it. I was really nothing more than a conduit for a meal that owed most of its existence to an old friend, a new friend and a minor local celebrity transplanted from Italy via New York.
For those of you unlucky enough never to have had it, osso buco is simply veal shanks slow braised with a soffrito (sauteed onions, celery, carrots, parsley and lemon peel) white wine, tomatoes, and stock.
The old friend of whom I speak would be Nick (of I'm Cookin' Here), who introduced me to osso buco over a year ago when he made a batch that smelled so good I was compelled to cheat on my non-beef-eating standards (which disappeared completely last November). Nick, as you may know from a past post, also lent me Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which has the osso buco recipe I used here, and which I still have not returned to Nick. Lastly, the fine Le Creuset dutch oven you see above is also Nick's, and I had to borrow it because I do not yet have one of my own. Did I also mention that Nick introduced me to my wife and once pulled me from the burning wreck of a Norwegian schooner? OK, I made the last two up. I have never been on a Norweigan schooner and am not married.
The minor celebrity would, of course, be Marcella Hazan, whom epicurious.com calls "America's matriarch of Italian cooking." You simply can not go wrong with any of her recipes, and I highly recommend the book mentioned above (see also on Kitchen Monkey Ragu alla Bolognese and Baked Polenta). If I haven't already mentioned it, she now lives in the neighborhood, having moved last year to Longboat Key, just across Sarasota Bay. She also looks like my grandmother!
The new friend would be Kim, who is a professor at New College of Florida. Her role? She hosted the dinner party and footed the bill for the osso buco, the milanese saffron & pancetta risotto (see this post--the only difference this time from that time was the use of beef stock instead of chicken stock), and a good chianti, the name of which escapes me.
A former political science professor of mine and his wife also joined us, and while he himself is Jewish, he grew up surrounded by Italians and knows a thing or two about Italian food. Since the osso buco got his seal of approval I was willing to overlook his mocking me for pronouncing gnocchi "nyoki" instead of "noetch" (or some phonetic approximation thereof) as he insists it is pronounced.
I told him he has to bear in mind that I spent my childhood in Utah, surrounded not by Italians, but by Mormons, where the epitome of local cuisine is not a beautiful dish of lasagna or slow braised veal shanks, but rather green Jello with carrots and raisins.
You think I'm kidding, don't you? Ask any Mormon who grew up in Utah. They'll tell you.