Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ossobuco alla Sydney

Well this is definitely one of my favourite dishes for winter. It's rich, tasty and satisfying, with the best part being the ease of preparation. For this edition of the dish I had a collaborator, with my brother joining the fray. Full credit must go to him for the delicious mash we served with the meat and broth!

We improvised the recipe really, don't all the best rustic Italian farmhouse cooks? Anyhow the result is fairly faithful to the dish most of us know, with a few tweaks here and there. Interestingly there are really two main types of sauce you can go with: The modern version we know with a tomato base, onions, celery, carrots etc, and the much older Ossobuco bianco, which is primarily flavoured with bay leaf, cinnamon and gremolata. I always find it fascinating the extent to which we associate the tomato with Italian cooking, when in fact it is a rather recent addition, tomatoes arriving in Europe from South America in the late 1500's with the returning Spanish. Even from this point not being adopted into Italian cuisine on a large scale until the 17th century.

In a nod to the older version of the dish, I started with a mix of spices including cumin, bay and cinnamon, I love the tomato richness as well so here's our take...

Ossobuco pieces, dusted in flour (as many as you need, 1 per serve)

2 onions
2-3 cloves of garlic
chilli flakes (few dashes to taste)
cracked black pepper ½ tsp
white pepper ½ tsp
mixed herbs 1-2 tsp
cumin ½ tsp
cinnamon ½ tsp
salt 1 tsp (to taste really)
sugar (again to get balance, to taste)
Rosemary 2 sprigs
Sundried tomatoes 150-200g
2-3 dried leaves, (use less if you have fresh, and of course these are always better!)
handful of chopped parsley

I also added about 75g of rendered sauce from a pork belly roast I made, and froze. It was a little like a stock base I guess, and you could use something similar or add some more stock to the mix of a type to your liking. The whole point is the depth of flavour in the finished dish.

red wine 250ml
water and/or stock (judge to cover the meat)
Tin of whole tomatoes 375g
2-3 carrots, roughly halved or chopped

Olive Oil

In a large, heavy pot, brown the meat in a little oil and butter, the more colour and caramelisation, all the better for the flavour later! When you are happy with this stage, throw in the chopped onions and garlic along with the herbs and spice (at this point I added my “Pork belly booster” and the sundried tomatoes).  Mix it all together and let the onion and garlic cook a little before adding the wine to deglaze the pan. At this point you can add the canned tomatoes, mix them through and then add the other liquid ingredients so everything is immersed. We simmered on a very low heat for about 5-6 hrs, obviously you can go shorter if time is tight, just simmer a bit faster. With the extra time you can go for a very low, barely bubbling simmer, everything cooks very slowly and is extremely tender. The carrots were added with about 2 hours to go and the lid removed for the last hour, to cook off a little liquid. Don't really reduce as your after a broth rather than a thickened sauce.

For the potatoes, quarter and boil in salted water until tender. We mashed with butter, salt, black and white pepper and a good handful of finely chopped parsley. If your adventurous a squeeze of lemon really lifts the mash, whipped through just before serving.

A flexible dish, my brother enjoyed this with a Guinness.  I on the other hand thought it sublime with a 2004 Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo, each to their own I guess but it worked nicely both ways. (I'd say try with the Piedmont expat though ;) ! )  There may have to be a review of this wine now...  

What else to say but a tasty, satisfying and glorious dish for the cool weather when something hearty is craved. I think it's so good you can do it anytime...