There was a cool bite to the air when I walked through Prospect Park on my way to the farmer's market yesterday. The bronze afternoon sunlight fell at a slanted angle, an implication of early darkness. Bright sugar pumpkins and a collection of gnarly gourds were scattered amongst the market's booths of apples and pears, beets and squash. People were wearing scarves and sipping steaming cups of hot cider.
It snuck up on me, but, apparently, it's fall.
There were moments this summer, as I stewed in the claustrophobic heat of my top-floor, un-air-conditioned apartment, when I was positive that fall would never come. I was destined to roast myself into sweaty oblivion forever. How lucky that things change. Sweaters have come out, blankets piled back onto my bed, clunking acorns drop constantly on my fire escape. And it is time to start bringing cold weather cooking back into my repertoire.
Last night, snug in my friend John’s beautiful kitchen, we concocted a magnificent osso buco. The rustic braised veal stew – meltingly tender and full of flavor, topped with a parsley pine-nut gremolata, side-by-side with the traditional Italian accompaniment of a creamy risotto – was the perfect way to inaugurate fall.
Inspired by Mario Batali, the recipe was surprisingly easy. A hefty tomato sauce simmered on the stove as we chopped the onions, carrots, celery and fresh thyme. The veal shanks plopped in a hot pan of olive oil to brown with a dramatic sizzle. Within thirty minutes the osso buco was in the oven, left alone for two and half fragrant hours.
John and I just had to sit back and wait. We watched a movie (something violent with John Cusack, of which I was not a fan), sipped some wine (left over from the cooking), pondered the pros and cons of Leonardo DiCaprio (shockingly good in The Departed, I thought) and the merits and pitfalls of grad-school (is it worth it?).
I eventually removed myself from the couch to stir a leisurely pot of risotto. John’s skills as a Cuisinart master were proven solid when he pulsed together the gremolata garnish. And when I lugged the big pot out of the oven and opened the lid, I was surprised at the ease with which it all came together. (See -- don't I look about to be surprised in that photo?) It is very satisfying to make such a great meal with so little trouble.
The meat was falling off the bone, a beautiful braise. The risotto was just a bit al dente, the perfect textural foil to the stew. The pine nuts in the gremolata were a necessary crunch; the green of the parsley and yellow of the lemon zest rounded out the color palette.
Fall is coming along quite nicely.
Osso Buco with Pine Nut Gremolata
Inspired by Mario Batali's Molto Italiano
4 3-inch-thick osso buco
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, sliced into rounds
1 spanish onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 cups tomato sauce (recipe below)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
zest of one lemon, grated
-preheat oven to 375
-season osso buco with salt and pepper on both sides.
-in a large dutch oven, brown the osso buco in olive oil (the oil should be hot to the point of smoking), on all sides, about 12-15 minutes, and then remove from the pan.
-add carrot, onion, celery, and thyme to the pot and stir for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
-add tomato sauce, stock and wine. bring to boil and then place the osso buco back in the pot.
-cover the pot tightly and put into the oven, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (the meat will be falling off the bone.)
-make gremolata: mix parsley, pine nuts and lemon zest. give it a few pulses in food processor. sprinkle on top of the osso buco when serving.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 spanish onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes
-heat olive oil, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes. add thyme and carrot, cook five minutes.
-add tomatoes and bring to a boil. stir often. lower heat and simmer until thick, around 30 minutes.