Ossobuco, Artusi and being homesick

“The preparation of this dish should be left to the Milanese, since it is a specialty of Lombardy. I will describe it in the most straightforward manner possible, lest I should be ridiculed.” Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well by Pellegrino Artusi, 1891.

Pellegrino Artusi was a business man with the passion for literature, but his really success arrived with his cookbook wrote when he was in his late sixties. This book became a viral success (as we would say today) and it is the third most read book in Italy, after The Betrothed and Pinocchio.

I have a very old copy of this book, a friend of my mom gave it to me, she had purchased it when she was young.

It has been raining heavy for two days, the wind and the sea are roaring and I feel uneasy. Homesick and uneasy. That’s why I felt the need to dust off my old “Artusi” and cook something that will pamper my soul.

And you, what do you read or cook when you feel homesick?

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Ingredients

(serves 4)

  • 4 pieces osso buco (veal shanks)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Some white flour to dust
  • 50 gr extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 120 gr. dry white wine
  • Homemadechicken broth
  • For the Gremolada:
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • For the Risotto alla Milanese
  • 400 gr. risotto rice
  • 1 liter of chicken broth
  • 40 gr extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 100 gr. dry white wine
  • 0,5 gr of saffron
  • salt
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the risotto, plus more for serving

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Directions

  1. Put the saffron in 50 ml of water and let it rest for at least 5 hours
  2. Heat half olive oil over medium heat and add the onion until is softened and translucent. Pour it in a bowl.
  3. Prepare the ossobuco, do three cuts around the circumference of each shank to help to hold the shape during cooking.
  4. Flour the ossobuco, pour the remain oil in the same pan of the onion (but without the onion) and cook them until browned on both sides (roughly 5 minutes per side).
  5. Cover the ossobuco with the onion and pour the wine (it is better to warm the wine so that the alcohol evaporates as it can give a strange taste to the ossobuco). Let it evaporate.
  6. Pour the broth so that it will close to the edge of the ossobuco cover with the lid and let it simmer at low heat for about 35 minutes
  7. Turn the ossobuco and let them cook for another 35 minutes
  8. Meanwhile, for the Gremolada: in a small bowl, stir together parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. Set aside.
  9. When the ossobuco has adsorbed enough liquid. Turn the heat off, pour the Gremolada, cover with the lid and let it aside while you prepare the Risotto alla milanese
  10. Heat oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat add the onion and cook it until translucent and soft.
  11. Add rice stir it for a few minutes and then add the wine. When the rice has adsorbed all the wine, cover it with broth stirring occasionally. As the liquid evaporate, add some more broth until the rice is nearly cooked.
  12. Add the saffron and let the liquid evaporated until nearly dry
  13. Close the heat, add butter and Parmigiano, stir and cover with the lid, let the risotto rest for a few minutes.
  14. Prepare the plate: spoon some risotto alla Milanese on the plate, carefully transfer the ossobuco paying attention not to ruin the marrow.

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Polpette (Mincemeat ball, Italian style)

The first rule of our trade,” said he, spreading the cloth, “is, not to meddle with the affairs of others; and, what is wonderful, even our women are not curious. It is enough for us that customers pay well; who they are, or who they are not, matters nothing. And now, I will bring you a dish of polpette, the like of which you have never eaten.”

When he returned to the kitchen, and was employed in taking the polpette from the fire, one of the bravoes approached, and said, in an under tone, “Who are those men?”

“Good people of this village,” replied the host, pouring the mince-meat into a dish.”

Excerpt From: Alessandro Manzoni. “The Betrothed / From the Italian of Alessandro Manzoni.” iBooks.”

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“The betrothed” by Alessandro Manzoni is an Italian classic. As an Italian, I had to read it in piece and bits since I was at the elementary schools and I have never came to appreciate it in full. Alessandro Manzoni got the inspiration of writing an historical novel from Walter Scott and Walter Scott is reported to say that indeed Manzoni had became the master. Never the less I read all sir Walter Scott’s novels (and love them, especially Ivanhoe) but not the betrothed …until… It was my daughter turn to start to struggle with fitted-in-the- program “betrothed” and I decide to adopt another tactics, we were going in a road trip and instead of listening to music we would listened to the novel read by a famous actor. We loved it. I also understood why Scott called Manzoni a master. Manzoni has a subtle sense of humour that is missing in Scott and that get a lost in the school program.

And here a recipe for polpette (mince-meat balls) ““which would make the dead revive” That Renzo eat soon after he understood he was not going to marry Lucia as fast as he had hoped.

Polpette is an Italian classic. Did you enjoy it? Did you suggest any different ingredient to suits your taste? Please, share…

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Recipe:

For the meat balls

½ kg of good beef mince meat

2 slices of white bread (possible a couple of days old)

some milk

a small onion

2 tbs of grounded Parmigiano

2tbs of grounded mature Pecorino (if you don’t have Pecorino any other mature sheep cheese would do)

For the sauce:

1 small carrot

1 leave of celery

1 small onion

300 gr of tomato sauce

4 tbs of olive oil

 

DIRECTIONS:

The meat balls

  1. Combine the milk and the slices of bread: Pour the milk over the bread in a small bowl and set aside while preparing the rest of the meatball mix. The bread will absorb the milk and become soggy.
  2. Whisk the egg, salt, pepper and cheese mix: Whisk the egg in a large bowl until blended. Whisk in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper, then whisk in the cheese mix (I Used the KitchenAid with the wire whip).
  3. Combine the egg and ground meat: Add the meat to the egg mixture. At this stage I use the beater but you can use your hands to thoroughly mix the egg into the ground meat.
  4. Add the onion and soaked bread: Add the onions, garlic, and soaked bread to the meat. Mix them thoroughly into the meat. Try not to overwork the meat; pinch the meat between your fingers rather than kneading it.
  5. Form the meat into meat balls: Pinch off a piece of the meat mixture and gently roll between your hands to form 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Continue shaping until all the meat is used.
  6. Cook the polpette: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped mix of onion, carrot and celery and cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until it softens slightly. Add the polpette and cook, gently stirring so that the meatball will be completely sealed. Add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. The meatballs are done when they’re cooked through and register 165°F in the middle on an instant read thermometer. Serve immediately.

 

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