The Slow Sizzle

Tougher cuts of meat have been making their way into the top of the culinary world. Previously unheard of cuts, like beef cheeks, are making an appearance in top restaurants the world over. Locally, lesser prime cuts, like shank and neck, even tails, have always been part of our menus. Unlike most first-world countries, we are still fortunate to have access to cooks and house help. Either that, or some households are still run by housewives. In most homes, there is usually someone who is tasked to feed the brood. Having time to go to the market and prepare and tend to the stove is a luxury most of us take for granted.

Slow-cooked food usually involves the tougher cuts of meat. These are the “working” parts of the animal, the feet, shins, legs, shoulders, etc. Unlike the prime cuts, which are “sheltered”, the tougher cuts have a lot of connective tissue in between meat fibers.

This connective tissue makes meat tough. But by using moist cooking techniques, like braising, boiling and stewing, the collagen in the connective tissue breaks down into gelatin, which transforms the tough and chewy cut of meat into soft, sticky, succulent goodness.

For this month’s recipe, I decided to use one of the most common of the tough cuts, shank. The collagen “veins” all around the shank meat plus the bonus marrow makes this cut one of the most rewarding to eat. Locally called bulalo (cross-section) or kenchi (boneless shin), these cuts are commonly used for nilaga or pochero. My recipe is an Italian take on bulalo, traditionally made with veal. I personally prefer normal beef to veal, whatever the cut. Apart from having to wait a few hours, this recipe is quite easy, even if you choose to serve it with its traditional side dish, saffron risotto.

Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese

osso buco

  • 4-6 pcs beef shanks
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (about 2 cups)
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • beef stock to cover

For the osso buco

1  In a heavy pot, sear beef shanks in some oil until well browned on all sides. Set shanks aside.

2  In the same pot, sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery for 3 minutes or until lightly caramelized.

3  Add beef back then add wine and canned tomatoes and enough beef stock to cover.

4  Add rosemary sprigs and black pepper and simmer till beef is tender.

5  Carefully take beef out and adjust sauce for seasoning and thickness.

Gremolata

  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • grated rind of 2 lemons

 Risotto Milanese

  • 3 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch saffron threads

For risotto

1 In a sauté pan, heat olive oil. Add shallots and 1 tbsp butter.

2 Add rice to the pan and sauté to coat grains with oil, stirring constantly to avoid rice sticking to the pan.

3 Place saffron in hot stock to steep.

4 Pour wine into rice and let evaporate.

5 Add saffron-infused stock 1 cup at a time, stirring the rice while the stock mixes and simmers.

6  Once stock has evaporated, add 1 more cup of stock.

Continue until rice is cooked but still has a bite in the center.

7 Turn off heat and add cheese, stirring till well combined.

8 Add butter and cover. When ready to serve, add a half cup of hot stock to loosen risotto and stir to incorporate butter.

To serve

Mix chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest together.

Sprinkle on top of beef shanks and serve with hot risotto.