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Osso Bucco: a childhood reverie

I remember the first time I had osso bucco. A decade later, I would see it on a handwritten menu in a trattoria near Milan. My dad was reaching the peak of his Italian repertoire. Some forced time off from working, he had more time for more complicated, longer cooking dishes. Nowadays, I’m miles away from eating meats and poultries. Yet, the memory of gently braised veal shanks smothered in a velvety rich sauce, comes back to me around the holidays. Since the days dad and I were speaking, my brother has picked up the osso bucco mantle. This came as a shock to some of us after years of boiling dry a pot of water or making the runniest, most inedible scrambled eggs.

Dad’s osso bucco appeared as part of the home repertoire around Easter, 1997. Maybe, it was about sacrificing a baby cow instead of a lamb that particular year. In 2010, he and my stepmom converted to Judaism, Easter’s sacrifices swapped for perhaps, Purim. Back in the kitchen, veal shanks floured, seared and resting, the rich scent of mirepoix caramelizing in a pan, crispy, meaty bits scraped up and mixed with the wafting of onions, carrots, celery. All of us were left with heavily salivating mouths two hours prior to plating. Our Saluki dog, Kahn, paced and panted, drooling in anticipation, brown nose quivering as he snuffled the air. So well-cared for, Kahn would receive first scraps before the rest of us sat down to eat.

Thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and cloves warmed the air to a savory Christmas brilliance. White wine and chicken stock helped to lift up all the bits stuck to the pan, veggies slurping greedily, the sauce rising to a simmer. A roasting pan waited patiently to be stuffed inside the preheated oven. As dad added the seared meat, the pan sizzled; the sauce danced and spat as it was ladled on top. I peered through the oven window with the light on, watching the braising several times over the next hour and a half. Low and slow. Meanwhile, our tummies growled. Really, we were all like wolves hovering, smelling prey nearby.

©April 2019, Isabel Alvear

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