This meal was what cooking on a Sunday is all about. No one step was all that demanding, each part calling for about 15 – 20 minutes of concentrated effort with a few hours relaxation and slow cookery in between. I am basically in favor of this sort of thing, Sundays are meant for relaxation. With the end result being as good as this, it would be difficult to argue against it.
That being said, this week’s feast consisted of three courses as per my usual bias, Osso Buco with a mushroom sauce, modified to be slow cooked in a crock pot, Fried Polenta topped with a tomato-onion salsa and Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto. Nothing wrong at all with that from where I sit.
The Osso Buco: This traditional dish made from veal shanks has been on my mind for quite some time. I had seen it prepared on cooking shows, read about it in cookbooks and magazines, practically dreamt about it…
of course, me being in korea with a limited grocery, I was unable to get veal shanks… beef shanks, beautiful cuts of meat, yes, veal no…
part of me wonders if this is yet another bowing to political correctness, the world veal being identified as an outmoded cruelty to animals, lumped in with fois gras and other tasty, tasty things of that nature. No matter, the last ten months has taught me to not linger, move onward, cook with what I get my hands on.
I started the meal around six and a half hours before planning to eat, quick 15 minute cooking interlude that consisted of sweating down a thinly sliced yellow onion and two thin sliced ribs of celery in a 50/50 olive oil and butter mixture. Once this starts to brown, transfer into your crock pot. Pat down your shanks and heavily salt and pepper. Place these on top of the onion mixture and turn the crock pot on high. Kick back and enjoy the next four hours of your life. At this point, four hours later, sweat down a mixture of oyster and white mushrooms, both thickly sliced in another pan with a 50/50 mixture of butter and olive oil. Generously salt and pepper and add a bit of dried thyme. Cook these down until the mushrooms start giving off their liquid. Add in 1/2 a cup of white wine (chardonnay in my case) and the juice of half a lemon. Cook this down til most of the liquid evaporates. Turn heat to low and let simmer.
About 15 minutes before time to serve, ladle out a few large spoonfuls of the onion/celery/beef broth reduction from the shanks in the crock pot. Hit this with your immersion blender to liquefy. Pour this into the mushroom mixture and increase the heat to medium to reduce a bit more. Plate the meat and spoon over some mushroom sauce. Serve and enjoy.
Fried Polenta: Reviews for this recipe pointed to it being a bit bland and anyone who knows me probably realizes that bland is not in my culinary vocabulary. Because of this, I substituted parmesan cheese for the edam that the original asked for and also added in three tablespoons of red pepper flakes with the dry ingredients. This definitely perked it up a bit. Also, the original recipe called for this to be topped with a bit of fresh parsley to serve, I upped the ante on that by making a quick tomato salsa with a chopped tomato, 1/2 a chopped red onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and a generous twist of salt and pepper. Definitely nice. For the fritters themselves, around the time you start the mushroom sauce for the osso buco, bring two cups of milk to a boil. Stir in 1 1/2 cups corn meal, 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and a twist of salt or two.
Stir to combine well. I found the mixture to be a little thick so I ended up adding a bit of water to make it more manageable. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Spoon into a lightly oiled pan, making a layer about 1/2 an inch thick. Chill until completely cooled in the refrigerator. Slices the chilled polenta into small rectangles and fry in hot oil, about 5 minutes per side until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve with the aforementioned tomato salsa.
Grilled Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto: This is the simplest, tastiest, most wonderful way of enjoying asparagus. It’s also dead simple. About 15 minutes before you want to eat, trim off the woody ends of your fresh asparagus spears and toss them in a bit of olive oil.
Salt and pepper the spears and then wrap tightly with a slice of prosciutto per spear. Run it under the broiler for about 3 minutes per side until the ham starts to blister and turn brown. Serve immediately.
This was another meal that felt heavenly in its decadence. The rich savory mushroom sauce over the nicely tenderized beef shanks was a sure hit. The contrast of the hot and crispy polenta with the chilled tomato mixture made for a great eating experience. Words fail me when I even consider describing the beauty of the asparagus. Slightly sweet, salty and tasty. Everyone should try it. Now. Stop reading and go to the store, get what you need to make them. Now.
The meal was capped off with a passable bottle of bella sera merlot, not bad, very drinkable as evidenced by the empty bottle on my counter.
It’s hard to believe I have only 8 meals left in this project. It’s a relief, it seems like I have been doing this forever, not the 13 months since my first post. It is the highlight of my week, the planning, the preparation, the consumption. It will continue in some form or another, hopefully more developed into a family project with my favorite sous chef helping me with side dishes and other prep work.