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Classic Pairing: Osso Buco & Risotto Milanese

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I’ve been back on the East Coast for the last week, visiting my family for Christmas and New Years. It’s been a whirlwind of delicious meals cooked by my mother, and paired with incredible wines from my father’s cellar – including dueling 2001 and 2002 Chappellet Signature Cabs, a pair of 2008 A.P.VIN Pinot Noirs, and 1994 and 1995 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabs. Thanks, Dad!

But he saved my favorite set of wine for last night: 2007 and 2010 Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain. And since this week has been so focused on pairs, I knew we would have to match the wines with a top-notch meal. My mother and I selected two great recipes that are classically paired together from Canal House Cooking Vol. 7, one of my favorite cookbooks (thanks to GGD). I took the reins on Osso Buco (first time making it) while my mother made Risotto Milanese. Both dishes were a little time consuming, but not very difficult and totally worth it – especially when paired with the Palomas!

Osso Buco (serves 4)

  • 4 veal shanks, 2 inches thick, tied with kitchen string
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butterveal shanks
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 14-oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes in juice
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small handful of fresh parsley leaves
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic

Risotto Milanese (serves 4)

  • 4-5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TB finely chopped prosciutto
  • 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • salt and pepper

The Osso Buco takes about 3 hours to prepare and cook, so be sure to give yourself enough time. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Generously season the shanks with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large, oven-safe pot with a fitted lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and with the lid off, brown the shanks for 8-10 minutes on each side. Transfer the shanks to a large plate, and remove the pot from the flame. As the oil cools, scrape the blackened bits out of the pan and wipe everything out of the pot.

browning the shanks

Return the pot to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook until softened – about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the wine and return the shanks to the pot, along with any accumulated juices. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. (We didn’t have whole tomatoes so I used chopped tomatoes, which was fine). Pour in enough stock to nearly cover the shanks, adding a little water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and tuck in bay leaves.

Cover the pot and braise the shanks in the oven for 2 hours, basting them halfway through, and adjusting the lid to partially covered for the second hour. The meat should be very tender and almost fall of the bone, but the string holds it in place.

Meanwhile, prepare the gremolata. In a small food processor fit with a steel blade, chop the garlic. Add the lemon zest and parsley and process to combine. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small dish and set aside.

Begin preparing the Risotto when there is about an hour left to the Osso Buco. Start by heating the chicken broth in a medium pot, bringing to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth hot. Put the saffron in a small dish and add 1/2 cup of the simmering chicken broth. Set aside to infuse.


Melt the butter in a heavy, deep saute pan over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent – about 3 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto then add rice, stirring until everything is coated with butter.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth, stirring constantly to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push any rice that crawls up the sides of the pan back down into the liquid. When the rice has absorbed all the broth, add another 1/2 cup of simmering broth. Continue this process until you have added half the broth, about 20 minutes, then add the saffron-infused broth.

I love the color that the saffron adds to this dish!

I love the color that the saffron adds to this dish!

Keep adding broth by the 1/2 cup and stirring. Taste the rice; it is done when it is tender with a frim center. The fully cooked risotto should be moist but not soupy. Once you have reached this desired texture, add the parmigiano and stir until it has melted into the rice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Osso Buco can be served with a chunky sauce as is (with all the vegetables in tact), or the sauce can be passed through a sieve, pressing the vegetables through. I asked my family which they preferred, and they all agreed on chunky. To serve this way, add about half of the sauce to a deep serving dish. Carefully place the veal shanks into the dish, immersing them into the sauce. Add spoonfuls of the vegetables to each of the shanks, then top with a generous portion of the gremolata.

osso buco

osso buco

Serve the risotto in a separate dish and let your guests serve themselves, or plate the risotto on the bottom with the shanks and some sauce over it. Either way, it will taste delicious when the sauce hits the risotto.

osso buco and risotto milanese

I was pretty critical of this dish, it being the first time I made it. I think it could have used a little more salt, and I would have cooked it longer to reduce the sauce further and make it more thick. But my family loved it, and my brother said it was “one of the best meals he had all month” – which means A LOT since my talented mother cooks for him nearly every night!

The Paloma Merlots went very well with this dish, in particular the 2007 because it was more ready to drink. This dish would also pair well with Rioja Reserva or Chianti Classico Reserva. Either way, it should be a well-balanced wine with a good fruit-acid ratio – nothing too heavy since the veal and risotto are quite rich.

If you don’t have a volume of Canal House Cooking, I suggest getting at least one! Their recipes are easy to follow and use basic ingredients that you can find at your local butcher or grocery store, or that are already in your pantry.

Now, I must get ready for a New Years Eve party! Cheers to 2013, and best wishes for 2014!

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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