In the last year I have wondered many times when I might be able to find the time, to once again document and share what I love to do. Sometimes life becomes much bigger, much more important than ones self and what they want to do, what they love to do. In the last couple of years I have learned more about myself, more about my spouse, more about my family than I had in my 55 years on earth and 37 years in my relationship/marriage. And while I haven't been able to take the time to document/share my times in the kitchen or on the grills, my love for cooking and preparing food for the ones I love has been a integral part of my care giving. This holiday weekend has inspired me to prepare a dish that I have planned for a long while and this cool, rainy October day will provide the perfect back drop for this king of comfort food.
Many times my inspiration for preparing a meal comes from a visit to a restaurant, where I am introduced to something new. On this particular occasion a large group of us had gone to an Italian restaurant tucked away by the railroad tracks, in the quaint downtown area of our hometown. After reading the menu thoroughly, I zeroed in on a pork medallion dish that I knew I had to have. While waiting for service that seemed to be moving slow and being told our first wine selection was not available, I was beginning to have restaurant remorse. As the server, served drinks, apologized for not having our first wine selection and worked hard to make our night out comfortable and special, I settled in and was happy and content. Those feelings were once again challenged when I placed my order and was told that my choice was not available. The entree had just been replaced with the changing of the season and the menu did not reflect the change. The server recommended the replacement dish and described it as a braised pork shank that was one of the chef's specialties and insured me I would absolutely love it. All I could relate it to was a ham shank and I was very apprehensive, yet she insisted I would love it. I trusted her judgement and I had one of the most amazing, flavorful entrees I have ever encountered. As we left the restaurant our server followed me out to the sidewalk and thanked me for such a large gratuity and explained she felt like things had not gone so smooth. I explained that she was the definition of a great server, having dealt with adversity that was not in her control and turned it into a great dining experience by making great recommendations and paying close attention to us while apologizing sincerely for things beyond her control.
In the days that followed I started looking at recipes for Osso Buco, which is traditionally made with Veal Shanks but found many recipes for Pork Shank Ossu Buco, as well. A while back my son was on the other side of the metropolitan area, in close proximity to a favorite meat market that I was quite sure would have the Pork Shanks I needed. They did and though it has been a longer wait than I hoped for I wanted to cook this dish when I could share it, so here I am with the perfect day for Pork Shank Osso Bucco.
The Pork Shanks will braise for 2.5 hours which allows plenty of time to prepare side dishes but when I get the opportunity to spend a day in the kitchen I like to do as much early prep work as possible. That allows for a leisurely pace and the opportunity to enjoy a nice glass of wine and visit, while the kitchen fills with the aromas of all the goodness to come. I will prepare garlic mashed potatoes and fresh green beans sauteed with mushrooms and onions.
I have peeled my potatoes and have them in water ready to go. The garlic is ready for roasting and the green beans are trimmed, cleaned and ready to be blanched. When cooking something for the first time, timing can be one of the things that can derail your meal. By having my prep work done I will not be rushing while cooking the main course and trying to get my sides to come off at the same time. I can also prepare my vegetables for my braising sauce, peeling and chopping 2 carrots, cleaning and chopping 2 stalks of celery, chopping a white onion and getting my minced garlic ready.
I will brown the pork shanks before adding them to the braising liquid. I am using a seasoned flour, with chili powder, salt, cracked black pepper and granulated garlic. I will brown them in olive oil and transfer them into the dutch oven for braising.
Now I will construct the braising liquid. I will start by browning the vegetables. I will add the minced garlic later in the browning process to prevent it from burning. When the vegetables begin to get tender (approx 5 min) I will add a cup of dry white wine and bring it to a boil and reduce the wine by approximately 20%.
Once the wine has reduced I will pour the mixture over the Pork Shanks in the dutch oven. I then add the rest of the liquids and herbs. I'm using 4 cups of chicken stock, 2 cups of beef broth, 2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary, 3 Bay Leaves and salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
My braising liquid covers about 80% of the Pork Shanks. I will bring the braising liquid to a boil and instantly bring it down to a simmer, cover and cook for 2.5 hours or until fork tender. I will turn the Shanks every 30 minutes to allow them to cook evenly. It is very important to keep this at a simmer and not allow boiling. This will create a very tender and flavorful experience that you will not forget!!
After braising for 2.5 hours the Pork Shanks are removed, placed on a platter, tented and placed in a warm oven. The braising liquid is poured into a colander and all the solids are removed. The braising liquid is then returned the dutch oven over high heat for approximately 20 minutes and reduced down to approximately 2 cups and spooned over the Pork Shanks.
This was a very special day. I was able to relax this day away, spend a day in the kitchen, share a cooking experience with those that cook and hopefully some that aren't sure if they can cook. It's as easy as the internet, as easy as cookbooks and allows for individual creativity. I got to visit with my son when he got off work and we had a beer and discussed our beloved Kansas City Royals. I got to spend a day with my wife and prepare her a special dinner. I got to relive a special moment when I was out for a great dinner with a dozen people that were all out supporting my beautiful wife while she was in such great need of support. Oh yes, this was a beautiful, rainy, gray October day that I will not soon forget.
I give you Pork Shank Osso Bucco, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Sauteed Green Beans with Mushrooms and Onions, paired with an Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
I urge you to live every day as if it could be your last. Gather your family, your loved ones and your friends at every opportunity. Always tell those you love, how very much you love them. And last but not least, always break bread with all of the aforementioned, at any opportunity. Until we meet again, Love and Happiness to you all!!!
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