Ethical Meat: Beef Osso Buco

In New England, the ground is covered in a thick layer of snow for at least 4-5 months per year. What this means for agriculture is a much shorter growing season than what us Irish are used to. Fruit and vegetable availability is diminished and animals are moved inside for the winter.

New England is a winter wonderland, but not for farmers

When the seasons begin to change, farms kick into gear and begin focusing on the best of produce that spring has to offer. Many local farms benefit from CSA. “What in the name of goodness is a CSA”, I hear you ask eagerly! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the minute I heard about the concept, I knew I needed to explore it more. The concept is simple but brilliant.

Customers pay in advance for a seasons worth of produce early in the year. This downpayment give an injection of much needed funds to the farmer and allows them to invest in upgrades to their land, seeds and everything they might need for the coming season. In return, the consumer receives either a monthly or weekly box of produce that is local, fresh and seasonal. Its the perfect symbiosis for local food and the way food used to be consumed.

This year, I decided to sign up to a Meat CSA from Walden Local Farms. This CSA is slightly different – it brings a group of New England farmers together in one meat box, allowing a better selection while still providing support to a network of farms across the region. They saw a gap in the availability of good quality meat produced with integrity and they say “there was no clear road from these farms to our kitchens. So that is our intention: linking our re-emerging local agricultural economy to you.” I was sold!

Our first Walden Meat Box

 

Regularly, our meat box arrived with a cut of meat that I am less familiar with and that is precisely the situation that inspired me to try making beef osso buco. I received some beef shank and had been dying to try Marcella Hazan’s recipe for this italian classic. This is the result. The for me, the gremolata makes this dish so I implore you, don’t leave it out!

Beef osso buco:

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 4:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped.
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped (I added extra into my stew).
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped.
  • 50g butter.
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated.
  • Strip of lemon peel, cut using a vegetable peeler.
  • Olive oil
  • 2 beef shanks with bone in or 4 small.
  • Flour for coating the meat
  • 200ml white wine
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • Sprigs of fresh thyme, parsley and a couple of bay leaves.
  • Salt and pepper.
For Gremolata:
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. In a cast iron casserole, melt the butter.
  2. Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pot and sweat over a medium heat for 5-6 mins. Add the lemon strips and garlic and cook for a further 2 mins. Switch off until ready to add the beef shanks.
  3. Heat a heavy based frying pan with some olive oil.
  4. On a plate, place flour and season well. Just before cooking, dredge the shanks in the flour and coat well.
  5. Place the shanks into the frying pan to sear the outside – colour is flavour here so make sure to brown well.
  6. Remove the shanks from the frying pan and sit onto vegetables in the casserole. Using the white wine, deglaze the frying pan of all the lovely beef juices and pour this into the casserole too.
  7. Now add the beef stock, tomatoes and herbs to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the whole pot to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven.
  8. Cook for  1.5 – 2 hours, until the meat is falling apart and the sauce has thickened. Make sure to check regularly and top up with water if it becomes a little dry.
  9. While it is cooking, stir the gremolata ingredients together and set aside
  10. After two hours, remove the meat with a slotted spoon. If the sauce is a little liquid, bring to the boil on the stovetop and reduce it to desired consistency.
  11. Serve chunks of meat on top of creamy polenta or a simple risotto. Drizzle generously with sauce.
  12. Top with a sprinkling of gremolata.

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