Saturday, June 5, 2010

Veal Shanks or possibly Knuckles

As I child I would throw my meat out the window while no-one was looking, so I'm not the biggest meat eater around, but I'm not a vegetarian. I love bacon, prosciutto, sausages, but often wish I could come to terms with the fact that I'm eating the flesh of another animal, rather than push such information in the recesses of the my mind to bubble away.
I read a novel recently called "the school of essential ingredients", and there is a lovely section about the compassionate killing of animals or beasts that you are about to cook with. And of course, the film "Avatar" deals with this in a small way. There are some new movements amongst meat producers for producing meat products of animals that have led full-lives and have been killed in a compassionate way. Similarly there is an increase of consumers who are choosing to eat humanely raised meat. Kangaroo is becoming increasing popular, and in central Australia we also have the choice of camel. I have no doubt that consumers would be prepared to pay the extra cost of such products. Check out this article "Why vegetarians are eating Meat" for further info and insight into the subject at

Where I am heading? Osso Bucco... or Ososobucco Milanese, translated as braised veal shanks or knuckles. (Are they the same?)

Cooking Osso Bucco entails a major acceptance that you are eating an animal, unlike the list of processed meat products above. Now, if this isn't a problem for you, then Osso Bucco must be one of the ultimate hearty winter meals. I must admit to have been a little confused on this Osso Bucco journey, believing at some point that Osso Bucco was made from oxtail. In fact, I have inadvertently made it from oxtail, and it's not great. Perhaps the confusion is due to our butchers and supermarkets labeling products "Osso Bucco", rather than veal shanks or knuckles. Thank you, but you've possibly added to my confusion.
Recipes for oxtail and Osso Bucco are similar, but veal shanks do not have as much connective tissue as oxtail. All these "cuts" involve a major acceptance that one is cooking with the appendage of an animal: tail.. leg... Yes, I have some issues here, and I only wished I loved kangaroo meat, because I think Osso Bucco made with kangaroo tail is worth a try. However, this is one where I push my issues aside, albeit temporarily.

Osso Bucco is a slow cooked meal, where the flavour comes as much from the bones and marrow as from the meat. It has taken me many years to perfect this dish and the success lies with the quality of the meat. Don't buy substandard shanks.

The traditional Osso Bucco or ossobuco is from Milan, capital of Lombardy.