Osso Buco

Browned then braised, venison shanks deliver full flavor and tenderness.

AS VIRGINIA’S recent early archery season for deer was winding down, I stopped by a friend’s place to check out a couple bucks that had fallen to broadheads launched from a crossbow. The hunters took the bucks as they followed does into feeding areas.

One deer was already hanging from the gambrel and sharp knives were busy quartering and deboning venison. Then I saw the bucket. Inside were the forelegs of the buck, the parts just below the knee.

“What are you doing with those?” I asked.

“Tossing them,” came the reply.

“No!” I retorted, pleading for their rescue.

Clearly, my associates were burdened from the misconception that this part of the deer isn’t worth saving. It is easy to understand why. Many hunters throw away these sections that feature “shank” meat. It is loaded with sinew and silver skin and doesn’t easily grind into burger or sausage, often clogging the grinding plates. So it gets discarded.

There is a better practice.

First, I have always believed in salvaging every edible piece of meat from any animal I take. I believe we owe it to these animals—and the broader public since wildlife is considered a natural resource—to scrupulously use all that the animal offers. This includes the neck and front shoulder meat, the thin strips of meat between the ribs, the heart and, yes, the shanks.

I didn’t always think this way about the shanks, having stopped grinders too many times to clear pesky silver skin from the machine. Deer shanks, though, can be cooked just like the shanks of other domestic meat animals with similarly delicious results.

Osso buco, a dish long-favored in northern Italy, features braised veal shanks cooked on the bone in a covered pot or Dutch oven. Braised ham hocks are basically cooked the same way. You season the meat, brown it and then slowly cook it in liquid with a variety of spices and vegetables.

I sometimes cook deer shanks on the bone to extract flavor. Cutting the meat from the bone, though, makes it easier to manage in the pan and helps ensure all the silver skin melts away. I like a little brown ale or red wine added to my liquid base. The dish is always superb with the meat fork tender.

So, please, if you or your friends or family are in the “throw the shanks away” camp, understand there is a better option. Save that flavorful meat and cook it with this recipe.

Give it a try and then send me some feedback.

Ingredients

4 shanks, boned (or not as you choose)

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons flour

2 large carrots, chopped

2-3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 small/medium onion, chopped

3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup dry red wine (or 8 ounces of brown ale)

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

3 to 4 cups beef stock or broth

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Preparation

Rub salt over meat and let it rest in the refrigerator for several hours. Remove from refrigerator and pat dry. Heat oil in a fairly heavy Dutch oven. Dredge meat in flour and brown in oil.

Cook in batches, not crowding the pan. Remove and set aside. Add carrots, celery and onions to pan and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the flour and stir. Cook another five minutes and add garlic. After a minute, add wine or ale and deglaze the pan. Add 2/3 of the tomatoes and juice, bay leaf, herbs de Provence and 3 cups broth or enough to mostly cover the meat. Bring to a simmer and then place it in a 280-300-degree oven.

After 90 minutes, check the oven and add broth or a little water if the mixture is drying out. Continue cooking until tender. This usually takes another 90 minutes or so, depending on the meat used – such as a young doe versus an old buck.

Add the rest of the tomatoes and the lemon pepper and stir in before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over egg noodles, mashed or chunked potatoes, rice or polenta. (To save time and cleanup, you can add cut potatoes to the pot about half an hour before it’s done and cook with the meat.) Potatoes absorb some of the liquids in the dish. Serves 3 to 4 people.

This dish pairs nicely with a hearty red wine. We matched it up with a fine Virginia wine, a Rockbridge DeChiel Meritage, a dry blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.

Venison osso buco often tastes a little better served the day after the original preparation. Just don’t use a microwave to heat it. Put it in a casserole dish and slowly warm it in the oven.

Urban Trout Opens

Virginia Urban Fishing Program trout season began last Friday. Eight impoundments, including Fredericksburg’s Old Cossey Pond, are a part of this program. Others include Cook Lake in Alexandria; Armistead Point Park Pond in Hampton; Dorey Park Lake in Henrico County; Locust Shade Park in Prince William County; Northwest River Park in Lake Chesapeake; Shield Lake in Richmond; and Ivy Creek Park Pond in Lynchburg.

Each location gets five stockings of rainbow and brown trout between Nov. 1 and April 30, 2020. The limit is four trout per day, no fish less than seven inches. The average stocked fish is 10-11 inches.

Anglers fishing these locations during the designated stocked trout season must have a $23 trout license.

A county-by-county list of waters stocked with trout, as well as stocking schedules, is on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website (dgif.virginia.gov).

Note: For more wild game recipes, gear reviews, hunting, fishing and travel blogs, see Ken Perrotte’s weblog at outdoorsrambler.com.

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