When I opened my first restaurant, Buonavia, in 1971, I longed for many traditional Italian products that were hard to come by. So, to bring the Italian flavors to my dishes, I depended mostly on techniques. In America, meat was plentiful, and combining good veal shanks with lots of vegetables and herbs and simmering it for hours results in fork-tender meat nestled in a complex and savory sauce. Osso buco, literally translated as "a bone with a hole," is a dish that originated in Milan. A favorite then, it still outsells many other meat choices on the menu at Becco, Lidia's KC, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.
4 fresh bay leaves, or 6 dried bay leaves
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 cups chicken broth (see recipe online), or more as needed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 2-to-3-inch thick veal shank, cut in half, tied around the circumference
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
6 whole cloves
2 small oranges, 1 peeled with a vegetable peeler, 1 zest grated
2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
Tie the bay leaves and rosemary together with string. Pour the chicken broth into a small pot and keep warm over low heat.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the osso buco with the salt. When the oil is hot, add the osso buco and brown on all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes in all. Remove browned osso buco to a plate.
Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven. Cook until the onion begins to soften and all of the vegetables are caramelized, about 5 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to clear a dry spot in the pan, and add the tomato paste. Let it toast for a minute or two, then stir it into the vegetables. Add the wine and the herb package. Bring to a boil, and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Drop in the cloves and the orange peel (reserve the zest from the other orange for later). Return the osso buco to the pot in one layer, and pour the chicken stock over the top until it is almost, but not quite, covering the osso buco. Adjust heat so the liquid is simmering, cover, and cook until the osso buco is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
Once the meat is tender, uncover, and remove the vegetable chunks to a platter. Put the osso buco on top of the vegetables. Discard the bay-leaf/rosemary package. Bring the liquid in the Dutch oven to a boil, and cook down until saucy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the strings from the osso buco. Pour the sauce through a strainer directly over the osso buco on the platter, pressing on any remaining vegetable solids with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the orange zest over the top, and serve.
Serve this dish with an espresso spoon—or even better, a marrow spoon—so that your guests can scoop out the marrow as the ultimate delicacy.