One of my favourite things about winter is the fact that the weather is perfectly suited to slow-braising meats. By the time October rolls around, I'm quite literally craving stews and braises and chilis and such. It borders on the obsessive, really.
I think what I really like best is that I get a perfect excuse to spend a cold Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch, while an underappreciated (and therefore cheap) cut of meat simmers away in a flavourful liquid on the stove.
As the hours go by, the house fills with a warm, comforting aroma, and those tough hunks of meat slowly transform into meltingly tender morsels. I like to think it's nature's way of making up for the less-than-pleasant aspects of winter.
Rich, Flavourful Osso Buco on a Budget
These super-flavourful braised beef shanks are one of my favourite cold-weather braises.
I like to think of this dish as a richer, beefier alternative to a classic osso buco, which I've lovingly dubbed "faux-so buco".
It has the same slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone sauciness, and the same flavour base of mirepoix, stock, wine and tomato.
However, everything is just a little bit deeper, a little bit richer, and a little bit meatier. The most obvious reason for that is because I've substituted beef for the traditional veal, but there's also fennel instead of celery, red wine instead of white wine, and tomato paste instead of whole tomatoes.
Best of all, beef shanks happen to be quite cheap compared to veal shanks, which means this dish is as easy on the pocketbook as it is on the palate.
To get the best results, choose the thickest, meatiest shanks you can find, with a relatively high meat-to-bone ratio. You'll need four good-sized shanks for this recipe, or six smallish ones if that's all you can get.
What to Serve with Osso Buco
The traditional pairing for osso buco is risotto milanese, a simple yet luxurious risotto scented with saffron.
But we've already established that this is a budget-friendly recipe, so I recommend skipping the pricey spices and going for a simple polenta instead. Same soft golden hue, same magical combination of creamy carbs laced with butter and cheese, but waaaaaay cheaper.
If that's not your thing, you can also pull the shanks apart into bite-sized chunks to make a a hearty sauce to be tossed with cooked pasta, or serve them atop a bed of cooked rice or mashed potatoes. Basically, you're looking for something to soak up all that delicious sauce, because trust me when I say you won't want to waste a drop.
And whatever you do, though, don't skip the lemony gremolata... it provides a much-needed fresh counterpoint to all that beefy richness.
Beef Osso Buco (Braised Beef Shanks)
- Total Time: 2 hours 20 mins
- Yield: 4 1x
This richer, heartier take on the classic Italian osso buco swaps out the traditional veal shanks for beef, which delivers all of the same deliciousness but at a fraction of the price. Served on a pillowy mound of soft polenta, it's perfect cold-weather comfort food on a budget.
- 2 lbs cross-cut beef shanks
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced fennel
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp salt
Braise the Shanks:
- Pat the beef shanks dry with paper towel. Season the shanks with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Tie kitchen twine around each of the shanks to ensure they hold together during cooking.
- In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and sear on both sides until well browned. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add carrot, fennel, onion and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft. Stir in tomato paste, and continue cooking for 1 minute. Stir in wine, gently scraping the pot to release any browned bits clinging to the bottom. Nestle the reserved shanks and bay leaf into the vegetables, and pour beef stock overtop.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the shanks are tender and falling off the bone. Check periodically to make sure the shanks are covered ¾ of the way up with braising liquid, topping up with water if the liquid level gets too low.
Make the Gremolata:
- While the shanks are braising, stir together all the gremolata ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to allow the flavours to mingle.
Finish and Serve:
- Once shanks are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a serving platter, leaving the liquid in the pot. Snip off kitchen twine from the shanks, and discard.
- Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the braising liquid to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until reduced to a thick, glossy sauce. Discard the bay leaves. Taste to check the seasoning, and adjust as needed with salt and pepper.
- To serve, top each shank with a generous amount of the sauce from the pot, and finish with a sprinkling of gremolata.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Category: Main
- Method: Braised
- Cuisine: Italian
Paired mine with classic Italian pastina. Divine!!!
Is tieing the Shanks with twine really
Isabelle Boucher says
It's not absolutely necessary, Cindy, but it does help to keep the shank together as it cooks. I find that otherwise, the shank will fall apart as it pulls away from the bone... great for pasta sauce or shredded beef, but not so much when you want to have a nice whole shank to plate up.
That beef is looking so moist and tender and good!
I so know what you mean about the craving stews/chili/braises come October. I do that too, to the point I can just about smell it! This recipe/photos are doing the same thing, so much so that I want to go shopping for some delicious beef shanks :D
Girl you just made my stomach growl -- I absolutely love braised shanks!! Yours looks so hearty and decadent, fall off the bone good.
:( I want to eat this NOW!! Are you sure I can't kidnap you for a couple weeks here in Dallas? I promise I won't chain you to the stove too long...
Sprinkled with Flour says
This sounds like such a warm, comforting winter dish. It sounds mouth watering too!
Edible Art says
looks delish !
How did you know that osso bucco is my favourite comfort dish of all time?! The problem is that I'm far too lazy to make it all the time, so it's a once-a-year thing when I can be bothered to get off my butt and fork out the cash for the meat... or when Momma Lee is feeling particularly loving and makes it for me!
I'm loving this version with beef - I bet it's absolutely divine. And good call on the polenta! We usually have it with rice but that's more from habit than anything else - next time I'm going to make your version and have it with mascarpone polenta. DROOL.
Wow! You had me drooling the whole time! It's too bad I've already put my roast in the oven, because I would totally be making this instead if I hadn't!
Thanks so much for leaving a comment on the blog, I'm so happy I clicked through to find yours. What a great site! God, I love beef shanks. I'm totally making this.
Fresh and Foodie says
Um, yes please! This looks fantastic -- hearty and comforting. And served on top of polenta?! Awesome!
Adora's Box says
I just love beef shanks, every bit of it: the tender tasty meat, the gelatinous tendons and most of all the buttery marrow. All sinful, I know, but what to do, I was born a sinner.
That looks so good. I love love love beef shanks
Awwww Isabelle I'm totally with you, braise is a new discovery for me, and I'm soooooo in love with it. I got some beef shanks yesterday, the weather is a bit lousy this week, it will be perfect. Your dish looks amazing, loved the gremolata.
I would eat something this amazing on the hottest day of summer just because it would make me extraordinarily happy. And I would drink very cold wine and be doubly happy.
Wow that looks amazing! I am with you once October comes around I am so ready for all those delicious stews and soups. This is definitely going to be on my list to try!