Originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.
I was still cooking the contents of our freezer a couple weekends ago. Part of my tactic was cooking the larger beef packages first–one of which was some osso buco (veal shanks).
It’s fortuitous how ingredients come together…sometimes they arrive as if choreographed, naturally culminating into a meal. I went to the farmer’s market and randomly bought some artichokes (“Honey,” I said to my husband, “We haven’t had artichokes in awhile have we? Let’s buy some.”)…then days later I hit the Made in France warehouse sale and encountered some farro.
I’d heard of farro once before–was it mentioned in Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires? I don’t remember, but I was left with the indelible imprint of this grain as an underappreciated yet delicious treat. It is “pearled spelt,” a rather tough grain that requires some cooking and seems to hold up well in stews and soups. I bought some.
Hrm. Artichokes. Farro. And osso buco. Sounded like a meal to me!
I was inspired by Mario Batali, given my recent reading of Heat for the ReadCookEat Book Club (btw, that book and Buford’s writing kicks.ass). So I used an osso buco recipe out of the Babbo cookbook (have I ever mentioned that I wince whenever I hear the word “Babbo?” Babbo means “idiot” in Korean).
I steamed the artichokes in a bath of water, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil.
And the farro? I made a risotto out of it! The extra texture of the farro makes for a unique version of risotto, one I really enjoyed. And what’s more, unlike arborio rice which can get “mushy” with too much abuse while being cooked, farro is more forgiving under heat and stirring.
OSSO BUCO WITH TOASTED PINE NUT GREMOLATA
From the Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali, reprinted at epicurious
There is probably nothing more dramatic — or better to eat — than a whole veal shank. It’s a showstopper; when we bring this out from the kitchen prior to carving it tableside, every head turns, and for good reason. The succulent meat and the delicious marrow are truly impressive.
1 whole veal shank, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch-thick coins
1 small Spanish onion, diced
1 celery stalk, cut in 1/4-inch slices
Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh thyme, chopped
2 cups basic tomato sauce
2 cups brown chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
Leaves from 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted at 400°F. for 2 minutes
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Season the shank all over with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed, 6- to 8-quart casserole, heat the olive oil until smoking. Place the shank in the pan and brown all over for 12 to 15 minutes, turning with long-handled tongs to sear every surface. Remove the shank and set aside.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the carrot, onion, celery, and thyme, and cook, stirring regularly, until golden brown and slightly softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, chicken stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Return the shanks to the pan, making sure they are submerged at least halfway; if not, add more stock. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid of aluminum foil. Braise in the oven for 2 hours, then remove the cover and cook another 30 minutes, until the meat is nearly falling off the bone.
4. Just before the meat is done make the gremolata. In a small bowl, combine the parsley leaves, pine nuts, lemon zest, and horseradish and mix well by hand. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
5. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before carving the shank and dividing among four warmed dinner plates, topped with the gremolata.
1 cup farro
8 cups water
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For farro risotto:
Soak farro in cold water 20 minutes. Drain; rinse. Bring 8 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup oil and farro. Simmer 20 minutes. Drain in strainer and rinse. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute. Add farro and wine. Simmer until almost all liquid evaporates, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth 1 cup at a time and simmer until liquid is absorbed and farro is just tender, stirring frequently, about 14 minutes total. Stir in cheese and 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper.