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Leslie Willard


Presto chango: Osso buco by Leslie Willard

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - Updated: 3:12 AM

Do you ever just get a “hankering” for something, like maybe good Chinese food, or some comforting Italian? Well, a few weeks back, I was craving some Osso Buco, BAD. I just love Osso Buco, but it’s gotta be done just right. Like, with real veal shanks and lots of vegetables, over pasta. So, what does any respectable food columnist do? Learn to make it herself, that’s what. And I did, and it came out fabulously, I must say, but before I share my recipe I need to discuss a little something with you first ...

When I was a young and blushing bride and just starting out in the kitchen (you know, about 50 ga-trillion years ago) I naively believed that recipes were set-in-stone. I would never, ever dare to change even the teensy-weensiest little ingredient, for fear of screwing the whole thing up. Now that I know my way around a kitchen a little more, I know better. With the exception here being baking quantities (which really is a science, and should never be messed with, I’m told), I’ve tinkered with just about every recipe I’ve found over the last twenty or so years. For instance: I love Mexican food, but cannot STAND Cilantro, so I just don’t use it. I fake it with parsley, instead.

Traditional Osso Buco is usually served on a bed of gorgeous, rich Risotto. Well, we’ve really been watching those darned old calories and fat grams around here lately, and as much as we love Risotto, we just can’t justify it right now (what with vacation only a month away and all). So, I made my own little medley of Cannellini beans and tomatoes and carrots for the beautiful veal shanks to lie upon, and I think the whole dinner came out just terrific. My point here? Recipes are really just a guideline; you can alter them any ol’ way you want to appease your (and your family’s) taste buds. After all, this IS America, land of the free, home of the brave! The more you experiment, the braver you’ll become.

And just in case you don’t know anything about the Italian staple that is “Osso Buco” — here’s a little dish on the traditional dish. Osso Buco is Italian for “bone with a hole,” referring to the marrow at the center of the veal shank. The dish is a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks, white wine and broth. Osso Buco is also traditionally garnished with a “gremolata,” or a mixture of fresh parsley, garlic and lemon zest.


Serves 4

2 lbs. veal shanks, cut into short lengths

1 / 4 cup flour

1 / 2 stick butter

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 / 3 cup dry white wine

2 / 3 cup beef broth

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes

2  14.5 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste


1 / 2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tsp. grated lemon zest

Dust the veal shanks lightly with flour. Melt the butter in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add veal and cook until browned on the outside. Remove veal to a plate and keep warm. Add three cloves crushed garlic and onion to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is tender. Return veal to pot and mix in carrots and wine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and beef broth; season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for one and a half hours, basting veal every half hour or so. At end of cooking time (veal should be very tender, but not falling off of the bone), stir in beans. In a small bowl, mix together the parsley, one clove garlic and lemon zest. In a large serving bowl, arrange tomato/bean/carrot mixture, including cooking juices. Top with veal; garnish with gremolata. Serve immediately.

Please send all recipes or comments to P.O. Box 111, Old Forge, NY 13420, or e-mail them to You can also visit Leslie at her blog, located at


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