Monday, 26 January 2015

Osso buco with risotto Milanese, smoked bone marrow and gremolata

It’s funny how a picture can inspire you, and within an instant give an idea or craving that dominates everything else in your head. Well this is exactly what happened with this recipe. A week ago I was researching a few restaurants to find somewhere for Katie and I to celebrate our anniversary at the beginning of February. Traditionally we have gone to Hawksmoor Spitalfields to gorge on slabs of charred beef and sup into a stupor of prosecco and cocktails. It’s always a fun and highly satisfying evening, but this time round we fancied something a little different. I had forgotten all about CafĂ© Murano until a google search led me there, and instantly I knew that this would be the place for us. As big fans of those rolling Italian feasts this looked right up our street. I’d always liked Angela Hartnett’s approach to cooking and it wasn’t long before a little booking confirmation email was winging it’s way to my inbox. Whilst browsing the rest of their website, I came across a photo of their osso buco and I HAD TO HAVE IT. It just looked like the most comforting plate of food imaginable, with a big chunk of bone marrow and tender meat surrounded by a moat of yellow risotto. I had a dilemma though, as my booking wasn’t (and still isn’t) for a few weeks, but I had to get my chops around it somehow. So instead I decided to cook it. 

Appetite is a strange old thing. I’ve never particularly been interested in eating or cooking veal before now. I love the big, strong flavours and texture that you get when eating older beef, so why would I want to swap that for something delicate and mild. I’ve occasionally picked it on holiday and have regretted it every single time. It’s always the same; tough, dry and boring. And despite this, and having never really heard or tried the meal in which this recipe is based, I suddenly found myself with a massive craving. Having had nothing to compare the results with, it would be interesting if it is on the menu on the date of our visit. There’s no way that I couldn’t order it.
Bone marrow sceptics should flick away to another recipe at this point, as there is a whole lot of it here. And all the better and richer it is for it. As usual with this blog, I’ve tried to do something a little different and interesting, and in this case it came in the smoking of the marrow. I’d seen and read about it before, but until now had never got round to having a go myself. I’m a little obsessed with smoking and charring ingredients at the moment; I just think that it adds another element of flavour to a dish. It yields a wonderful sweetness in vegetables whilst creating umami richness with meat. I just can’t get enough of it. And the smoked bone marrow will definitely be getting another outing. It’s just so simple and easy to prepare, and hugely addictive to eat. Just make sure that you do it somewhere highly ventilated and away from any flammable objects!
If you do make this in smaller portions for a starter, you’ll have to fight for those two rounds of marrow. Fight dirty; it’s a fight well worth winning.
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter
For the veal:
2 slices of bone-in veal shin, about 700g 
1 litre chicken stock 
1 glass of dry white wine 
1 shaft of bone marrow 
1 leek, sliced 
2 carrots, chopped 
1 stick of celery, chopped 
1 onion, chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed 
2 bay leaves 
2 sprigs of rosemary
For the risotto Milanese:
1 cup of carnaroli rice 
½ a shallot, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, grated 
A good pinch of saffron 
A handful of grated parmesan, plus some of the diced rind if available 
2 good knobs of butter 
1 glass of dry white wine 
800ml-1ltr good chicken stock
For the smoked bone marrow:  

1 bone marrow shaft 
1 handful of straw
For the gremolata:
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley 
1 lemon, zest grated and half of the juice 
1 garlic clove, grated 
A splash of white wine vinegar 
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
To finish:
A little more grated parmesan 
A small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 

Heat a large saucepan to a high temperature and add a glug of olive oil. Season the meat and bone marrow on all sides then brown well. Transfer to a plate. Tip the vegetables into the saucepan and turn the heat down a little. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Turn the heat back up and add the wine, burning off the alcohol and reducing by half. Top up with the stock, then add the meat back to the pan along with the bay leaves and rosemary. Cover with a layer of greaseproof paper and simmer very gently for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. 

Remove the meat from the stock and allow to rest in a little of the cooking liquid. Strain the rest of the liquid into another saucepan and discard the vegetables. Bring to the boil and reduce down until the sauce is thick and syrupy. Cover until needed.
While the meat is cooking, make the other elements of the dish:
For the smoked bone marrow, boil up some water in a kettle and pour it into a wide, deep bowl or dish. Submerge the bone marrow shaft into the water for a few minutes, or until the marrow softens but before it melts. Scoop the marrow from the bone, pat dry and place on a small sheet of greaseproof paper. Line a saucepan with a layer of foil and top with the straw. Go somewhere well-ventilated or outside and light the straw with a match. Burn until it smoulders, then extinguish any remaining flames and pop the sheet with the bone marrow on top. Cover with a tight fitting lid and smoke for 5-6 minutes. Remove the marrow and place on a small baking tray.
To make the gremolata, boil up some water in a saucepan and have a large bowl of cold water on standby. Blanche the parsley and then instantly refresh in the bowl of cold water, then squeeze dry. Put in a food processor along with the lemon zest and juice, garlic and vinegar and whizz up until combined. Drizzle in the olive oil and keep the motor running until you are left with a fine, spoonable and sharp sauce. Cover and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 190⁰C.
Heat up the chicken stock for the risotto and enrich with the leftover marrow bones from the smoking and stewing processes.
Melt one knob of the butter for the risotto in a saucepan and gently sweat the shallot and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Turn the heat up slightly and pour in the rice, stirring until all of the grains are coated and begin to make a popping sound. Add the wine, parmesan rind (if using) and the saffron and bring to the boil, reducing the liquid until nearly all of it has been absorbed or evaporated. Start adding the stock a ladle at a time, stirring continuously to release the gluten, waiting until everything has been absorbed before adding more. Continue until the grains have softened but still hold a little bite, then turn the heat down and add the rest of the butter and most of the parmesan. Stir well, and adjust with more stock if needed until the risotto has a glossy, pourable texture with the rice and the sauce combined.
While the risotto is cooking, warm up the reduced veal sauce and add the rested meat. Baste well, covering the veal with the sauce and heating gently through.
Put the smoked bone marrow in the oven for 5-6 minutes, until soft and cooked through. Slice into rough pieces.
To plate up, spoon a generous pillow of the risotto into bowls and top with a piece of the bone marrow and a few large chunks of veal. Arrange a few pieces of the smoked bone marrow around the meat and add a few dollops of the gremolata. Finish with a scattering of parmesan and some olive oil.

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