Ossobuco is a classic of Milanese cuisine that made its way to Florence simply because of its deliciousness. Nobody really knows how and when that happened (people travel, duh!), and the recipe by the way does not even appear to be that old. This great dish, that was probably created in a random Osteria in or around Milan, does not appear in the Anonymous “La Vera Cucina Lombarda” cookbook published in 1890 and Pellegrino Artusi waited until his 14th edition of “Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene” in 1920 to mention it.Traditionally the dish is prepared by searing a shank of veal in butter and olive oil, a first pass of dry white wine and then a couple of cups of broth and a slow cook for a little over an hour, depending on the thickness of the meat. When I had the opportunity of learning this recipe in Florence however, red wine had replaced the white and unsurprisingly some pelati tomatoes had imposed their sauciness; enough to change the name into “Ossobuco alla Fiorentina”.
It does not matter which way you choose to prepare your shank tonight, red wine or white wine, tomatoes or not; the real Ossobuco is finished with “Gremolata”, a mix of finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest which delivers the true signature of this dish to your palate.
Last but not least, it is not unusual these days, when dining in an Osteria in Milan or Florence, to come across a Beef Shank Ossobuco. Veal has a very specific young-meat flavor and the shank is kind of fatty, not really a chew for everyone!
As much as the traditional recipe veal/white-wine/no-tomatoes makes me drool, there is no way my girls would let me cook it at home; they need the tomatoes and the red wine to create a sauce that is more “stewy”, and obviously expect beef and not veal.