This story is mostly about turning out a great meal with minimal effort thanks to advance preparation of some delicious key components. It is also about cooking using a Sous Vide technique.
Folks are always asking me if sous vide is worth it. Years ago, I might have asked the question myself. Three meals convinced me that it is a Good Thing. Those meals were twice having the huge pleasure of eating in Rick Bayless’ test kitchen, and another meal in a great restaurant in Greenville, SC. The meals in Bayless’ kitchen allowed me to get up close to the food preparation. As each course was rolled out, the chef went to a food storage drawer and withdrew several vacuum sealed bags. They were filled with chayote in a marinade, pieces of lamb or beef, etc. The chef opened the pouches and worked their contents into the next course. I had seen sous vide on the old Iron Chef, back when it had subtitles and I found myself rooting for Chef Sakai, the king of seafood. “Is that sous vide,” I asked. The answer was yes, and he told me there was equipment now to do it at home. The food was outstanding in texture, control of doneness, and depth of flavor. I started investigating. Next, I was in Greenville, SC on business and one meal was served with a short rib they claimed was braised for 48 hours. It was fork tender, yet still pink. How was this possible? It was sous vide. Is it worth it? Yes.
I am now using an Ary Vacmaster model VP112 vacuum sealer and an Anova immersion circulator. I use a 20 quart Cambro container as the water vessel. There are other options available, and certainly you can make this meal without a sous vide setup.
Sous vide is great for cuts of meat that contain a lot of tough tissue. By setting the temperature to the exact level needed to perfectly breakdown the connective tissue while concentrating the flavor in a vacuum pouch and maintaining the texture of the meat, sous vide produces very consistent results. Of course it’s also good for cooking meats that are cooked at a lower temperature and are served rare, but today we are talking Osso Buco.
Osso Buco is a thick slice of veal shank. It has a nice portion of meat, a lot of connective tissue, and a luscious marrow-filled bone in the center. It is traditionally cooked by searing and then a long braise. To do this recipe by braising, just add more liquid to cover the meat and cook for several hours until the meat is fork tender. Sous vide requires no attention to a pan, and the result is consistent without even thinking about it.
Wash the meat and pat dry to make sure there is no residue of bone dust. Salt and pepper both sides of the osso buco. Heat 2T bacon fat in a skillet until it is rippling, almost smoking. I prefer a cast iron or carbon steel skillet for this because it will create a nice brown crust in a short time.
Remove the meat from the pan and allow to cool on a platter. When cooled enough to handle, place each piece of meat in a vacuum bag with ¼ cup each veal stock and Bolognese sauce. Seal the pouches. A chamber vac like the Vacmaster is best because it does not suck the liquid out of the pouch like a Foodsaver.
The veal stock and Bolognese are make ahead items and really cut down on the time to make this dish when you are ready to make it. Every year in late summer I make 20 quarts of Bolognese sauce and freeze in one quart bags. If you have left over sauce from making Osso Buco, you can use the rest later for stuffed shells. Also in later winter or early spring I make a large batch of veal stock and demiglace. I get a 30# box of veal bones, roast them with seasonings and aromatics and then simmer on the stove top for 48 hours. Demiglace gets more reduction. That stocks the freezer for a year of great meals. I add that veal stock to any dish where I want deep, rich beef flavor. Chili, soup, stews, glazes, etc.
Put 15 quarts of hot water in the large Cambro (or a large pot will work, too), and use the immersion circulator to heat it to 142F. Drop the pouches of osso buco into the water bath. Let it do its thing for at least 48 hours. It can go as long as you need, but it needs a minimum of 48 hours.
To finish the dish, preheat convection oven to 200F (or conventional to 225F). I typically serve osso buco with polenta or mashed potatoes, so get that ready.
For polenta, I use 250g polenta, 1 liter of roasted chicken stock, ½ cup heavy cream, 2T butter, 1 cup finely grated Parmagiano Reggiano, and add more milk if the mixture is not creamy enough. Add milk just before serving if needed to make a creamy texture.
I also steam some green beans (well, today’s were purple, but they turn green when they’re cooked).
Finally, make some gremolata by mincing the zest of one lemon with 2 cloves garlic, 2T toasted pine nuts, and 2T fresh Italian parsley (and a little salt and pepper).
Carefully remove the vacuum pouches from the water bath and slice open. Place the osso buco in an oven proof skillet. Strain the juices from the pouch into a two-quart sauce pan. Dress the meat with a little of the strained juice and place the pan of meat in the preheated oven. (I add the strained solids to my reserved Bolognese sauce to make it even more rich for making stuffed shells.)
Reduce the juices in the sauce pan to a syrupy consistency.
Plate polenta (or potatoes), beans, osso buco. Dress the meat and polenta with the reduced sauce. Top with gremolata. Serve and enjoy!