Thursday, December 22, 2011

A good deal for good veal

I love veal. One of my uncles raised Black Angus in Wisconsin and he would slaughter a calf or two each year. Although I felt a little sad when eating an animal we had fed and petted, I loved the taste and texture of the meat.

But for years, I never ordered it in restaurants or bought it at grocery stores because of the inhumane treatment of calves at cattle processors. Who could enjoy a nice veal chop when those pictures of calves stuffed into cages so small they couldn't move were dancing in your head? Impossible. So I gave it up.

That has changed now that I know people who raise grass-fed beef and have visited the farms where the cattle are raised. I know they are good stewards of the land and treat their animals right. So once again, I'm eating veal.

Osso bucco is an excellent winter dish, but usually it takes at least an hour and a half to cook. Yes, it is slow food at its finest. But those who need to hurry it up in order to get dinner on the table just need to break out the pressure cooker. It still will take 40 minutes, enough time to make risotto while the meat is cooking. If you don't have arborio rice, it's good with plain rice, polenta or even couscous. But the creaminess of the risotto and the tender, melting shanks are pure heaven together.

Lori K's osso bucco for the pressure cooker
Serves 4

4 veal shanks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
2 cups red wine
2 cups veal or beef stock

1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
1 medium onion cut in quarters
1 carrot, sliced
1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds
5 garlic cloves garlic

3 rosemary sprigs 

3 thyme sprigs 

8 sun-dried tomato halves

Season veal shanks with salt and pepper. Brown all sides in hot olive oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker, then take out and put aside. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, allowing the alcohol to evaporate. Sprinkle the vegetables in the bottom of the pressure cooker to form a platform to place the veal shanks. Add the fennel seeds, bay leaf and corriander seeds. Add the stock. The level of liquid should be about 2/3 up the level of the meat. Put the cover on and raise the heat till 15 psi's is reached. Hold that level for 40 minutes. Let cool naturally. Remove and set aside the veal shanks. Pass the vegetables and stock through a coarse mesh using a wooden spoon to squeeze out the liquid from the vegetables. The remaining stock should be boiled down till the desired consistency is achieved and any fat skimmed off.

Serve in a wide bowl on a bed of risotto (see below), rice, couscous or polenta. Add a scoop of the mashed vegetables, top with the meat, and ladle the sauce over all.

Either add the bone marrow to the sauce, or remove the marrow and serve separately with sea salt on toast.

As with most stews, osso bucco will benefit from a day in the refrigerator. This also makes it easier to remove the fat. Before serving, brush the shanks with sauce and glaze under the broiler or in the oven at 500 degrees.

Simple risotto
Serves 4-6

7 cups (appoximately) low-salt chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup arborio rice (8 to 9 ounces)
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

Bring broth to boiling, then keep on simmer. In a separate pot, melt the butter and add the rice. Cook and stir until the rice is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the vermouth and stir until the rice is almost dry, then start adding the broth a ladle at a time, cooking and stirring until most of the moisture is evaporated before adding the next ladle. Before adding the last cup, taste; stop when the grains are al dente. Stir in the Parmesan and serve hot.

Sauté ¾ pound wild mushrooms and ¾ cup of sliced leeks in 2 tablespoons butter. Add just before the vermouth.