Monday, January 16, 2006

Ossobuco alla Milanese, Risotto alla Milanese

Few things merit and reward patience like risotto. I never cease to marvel at how a little time and elbow grease can meld butter (or olive oil, depending on the risotto you're making), rice, broth and parmesan into a creamy mass, each mouthful a soulful taste of oneness, the elements that make up the soffrito and cast of flavour compoments (again, depending on the risotto you're making) having surrendered their distinct characters to the creation of a singular, sublime entity. All risotti are one-pot, one-dish wonders that need no accompaniment, and accompany nothing, so good they are to eat, with the sole exception of risotto alla Milanese - as lovely as it is all by itself - otherwise known as risotto giallo (yellow) thanks to its beautiful saffron gold hue, classically partnered with ossobuco alla Milanese. For this most simple yet divine of risotti, enriched with beef marrow and a fine meat broth, I prefer using the Carnaroli rice variety to amylopectin-rich Arborio or amylose-rich Vialone Nano, both of which are more suited to other types of risotti. The Carnaroli kernel possesses the perfect proportions of the two essential starches, endowed with sufficient amylopectin - the soft surface starch that dissolves in cooking - to produce a clingy, velvety moistness yet boasting a higher content of amylose - the firm inner starch that gives the cooked rice an al dente toothsomeness - than any other risotto rice variety so that it offers the much-prized resistence to the bite. The resulting risotto is thus exquisitely balanced in consistency.

Thick meaty cross-sections of veal shin from milk-fed calves, beloved as much for the delicate sweet flavour and melting texture of its flesh when correctly braised (which is to say slowly braised) as for the unctuous marrow that nestles within the "bone with a hole" (ossobuco, literally), are surely the ultimate meat cut for slow cooking. There is plenty of debate, as is often the case with any iconic Italian speciality, over whether an authentic ossobuco alla Milanese should include tomatoes. There certainly exist traditional ossobuco recipes (say those from Emilia-Romagna) that are flavoured with tomatoes, just not ossobuco alla Milanese, argue those in the bianco camp. Having tried recipes both with and without, I must say that purely on the grounds of flavour (as opposed to authenticity) I much prefer the veal shanks in bianco (the recipe I loosely follow comes from Anna del Conte's Gastronomy of Italy), particularly when I'm eating it with risotto alla Milanese, the soft subtleties of which languish when pitted against the tanginess of a dish imbued with tomatoes.

This archetypal pairing is truly special occasion food. While not something to whip up at a moment's notice, the entire process is something I really savour. My favourite part, apart from the eating of course, occurs towards the end - sprinkling on the pungent gremolada of lemon zest, garlic and flat-leaf parsley which is aromatized by the heat of the sticky braising juices to give the dish an appetizingly heady lift, and swirling the lump of butter and cupful of freshly grated parmesan into the steaming pot of rice off heat, the mantecare flourish essential to the hallmark creaminess of a great risotto.

Last Saturday was definitely a special occasion - one of W's oldest friends from his years at Vassar was in town for a few days with her husband on a business trip. As it turns out, she is not just a foodie but a hardcore Italophile - the couple, currently based in the UK, have pretty much eaten their way through every region of Italy over the years. Below, the other courses we had at dinner.

Soup of Pea, Tortellini of Ham Hock

This recipe is based on one found in the incredibly detailed Formulas for Flavour by John Campbell, the Michelin-starred chef at The Vineyard at Stockcross, one of Britain's most acclaimed country house hotels. The plump little tortellini are filled with finely diced ham hock, previously simmered, bound by a light chicken mousse - having gone through the effort of making the pasta dough and stuffing, it's well-worth shaping extra tortellini to freeze in anticipation of an impromptu pasta meal later in the week. To finish, a drizzle of mint oil and a parmesan tuile.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Thyme, Truffle Oil, and Pancetta

No matter how many new titles I buy on a whim, I tend to turn to the same old trusty books when it comes to Italian food. For once, I ventured beyond my comfort zone (I know, not exactly the wisest thing when cooking for company) - I simply couldn't resist this dish, found in Scott Conant's New Italian Cooking, a recent release chockfull of vibrant, sumptuous Italian cooking with a modern twist. An intoxicating mixture of mushrooms (I combined field mushrooms with dried porcini as W and I adore porcini) is finely ground and enveloped by slippery smooth squares of homemade egg pasta. The ravioli are cooked then finished with more mushrooms and pancetta flavoured with thyme and shallots, the whole dressed with a splash of white truffle oil and a generous shower of freshly grated parmesan. I definitely plan on making this frequently now that I've given it a go - it is that delicious.

Triple Chocolate Parfait

A frozen dessert from Fran Bigelow's wonderful book, Pure Chocolate, which she describes as possessing "the velvety, melt-in-your-mouth consistency of the richest ice cream". Are you sold? I was. Dark, white and milk chocolate layers (made by folding each type of chocolate, melted and cooled, into a custard base, which is then lightened with whipped cream) sit atop a sweet chocolate cookie crumb crust for a sweet ending that's as elegant as it is delectable.


Blogger Chubby Hubby said...

MMMMMMmmmmmm.... what a delicious meal. Thanks for sharing. It's funny, by the way, I was just about to post on ossobuco also. :-)

2:04 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another spactacular post J,

2:30 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely, J. Random aside: Ricciotti now sells bottarga!

7:58 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops, or did I see bacalao? I forget.

8:42 pm, January 16, 2006  
Blogger Nic said...

Hi J. I'm sure that your guests were thrilled with the meal - I woudn't be suprised to know that your dinner was better than half the things they had while eating their way through Italy!

9:10 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Your pictures are great! I am Italian and these are some of my favourite dishes... they look perfect from your pictures.
I lived in Singapore for 7 months in 2005 and discovered some very interesting food...


9:29 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again. Can I ask you a recipe? One of my favourite dishes in SIngapore were the pork dumplings with soup inside... really delicious! I hade them in this restaurant at Paragon in Orchard (I cannot remember the name) where you cannot book and have to be in queue to get a sit... and you can see how they prepare food in the kitchen. thanks.


9:37 pm, January 16, 2006  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh strange! I was just thinking of osso bucco .. one of my fave dishes! I love the menu and all the dishes. So er, how do I score an invite to makan? Please? Pleasey please? LOL.

10:04 pm, January 16, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

Another very impressively planned and executed meal, dear J. Lucky guests!

10:12 pm, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello J, I came across your blog googling my most favourite French pastry, cannele bordelais. Since reading your wonderful account and seeing that sumptuous photo of the canneles - the best I've encountered - your blog has become my home page! Just when I thought you and I share the same umph and passion about food - cannele and everything foodie - you have this gorgeous photo about osso buco con risotto alla Milanese e gremolata. Possibly my most favourite Italian dish! I've had the privilege of eating it in Milano, its hometown, and your post just whisks me back there. I even have marrow scoops - narrow little spoons - to capture every drop of that unctuous substance. We are truly kindred food souls!

4:02 am, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog. Please come stick a pin in the Food Bloggers Global Map! (Are you actually in Singapore? Your food and ingredients look very European.)

4:15 am, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Michelle said...

J - everytime I visit your site, I am so envious at how incredibly gorgeous your food looks (and tastes, I'm sure). Thanks for always being an inspiration!

4:29 am, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Cathy said...

Jocelyn - it all looks amazing as usual. Reading about the risotto and ossobuco I assumed they alone were the subjects of your post (what was I thinking?). I was thinking how beautifully written your post was when I came to "Below, the other courses we had for dinner." I could have jumped up and clapped. Of course my first thought was - what's for dessert? :)

7:34 am, January 17, 2006  
Blogger mae said...

I loved reading this. For a few minutes i drifted away from my desk to Kuidaore's world. You have such a wonderful gift for writing not to mention the photos you take. Keep posting. You inspire me.

6:11 pm, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ossobucco must be in the air - I was dead set on making it myself this past weekend, but ended up sleeping too late on Saturday to make it to the butchers! Your version looks exquisite, and when I eventually do get myself out of bed early enough to find veal shanks I will give the tomato-less version a try. The rest of the meal looks amazing as well, I just can never get over the feeling that I'd rather be invited to your place for dinner than go to just about any restaurant in the world! :)

1:49 am, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

J just before I opened yr page last MOnday, at lunch we talked about OSSOBUCCO... why? bec its hard to find veal here in Athens. Greeks do not sell veal I might have to scour butchers ask where I can find veal shanks.

They serve this at the Italian restaurant here but exurbitant price.

And I made risotto... with calamari. I added yr link on the actual post!

6:19 am, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story and post...I come back here all the time

6:39 am, January 18, 2006  
Blogger M. said...

Hi J,

I love your desserts - they always seem to turn out so pretty! Do you have any tips on removing the metal moulds off each individual dessert? I am presuming you are using them and hope you can help me with that. Thanks!

12:58 pm, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful blog, pictures, recipes, what can I say? Happy New year 2006! ;-)
Your risotto and Osso Bucco pic looks so tempting. I have a recipe that I make often, my fav part of the Osso Bucco being the "moelle", the lovely meat inside the bone, on a piece of bread with salt...childhood memories come back then. I surely will visit you often!

10:38 am, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Anthony said...

It's a lovely thing you've done here and there are few greater labours of kitchen love than a risotto. They're also a complete bastard in a holiday house with fancy guests in a skinny bummed aluminium saucepan with a wonk handle on a two setting burner of flaming and blazing. My arm still aches.

8:22 pm, January 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

am just adding to the long list of compliments, but i couldnt help but gush at the gorgeous dishes and fluid prose. gimme gimme gimme!!!

11:02 pm, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

very inspiring - the ossobuco looks fantastic :) - btw, how do you get your mousse to be so perfectly straight at the sides? Sometimes in the course of removing the moulds, bits of the mousse gets stuck to the mould and I'm left behind with pockmarked sides :(

11:49 pm, January 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Joycelyn, another stunning meal! I especially love the idea of the ham hock tortellini in the pea soup - it looks/sounds really intriguing. Of course, I wouldn't forget the beautiful chocolate parfait :) Take care.

5:57 am, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

Oh my, your lucky, lucky guests, J! Ossobuco is one of my favourite dishes and one that I don't have enough of, especially not on of your quality, sigh. I won;t even get started with your other outrageously beautiful and delectable dishes. Keep on trucking as they say!

7:32 am, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yum. I'm drooling over the Osso bucco. Thanks for sharing!

8:27 am, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Fabulous meal - ossoc bucco & risotto Milanese is one of our favorites. Of course my photos don't come close to capturing the goodness like yours do.

Thanks for sharing.

9:00 pm, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Gustad said...

everyting looks great asual. i want to cook somehting with ham hocks

4:59 am, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi chubbyhubby, thanks! i think it must be the non-stop awful weather that's making us all crave comfort stodge!

hi clare, thanks! you are always so encouraging

hi ozzywee, thanks for visiting!

hi s, thanks! either ways, that's exciting news! - i really must haul myself down to the riverwalk one of these days...

hi nic, thanks! you are much too kind, although everyone did seem pretty sated after dinner

hi sabrina, thanks! i think you are talking about din tai fung's xiao long bao dumplings. i have been trying to make them too; mine don't taste quite right yet. i promise to post the recipe when i do finally get the hang of it...

hi melissa, thanks! i will try my best to get round to it...

hi mm, thanks! glad you like the menu!

hi pille, thanks! i must confess to spending more time obsessing about what to put on the menu than on the actual cooking!

hi skrat, thanks! as far as this household is concerned, w is the bouncer to speak to ;)

hi paz, thanks! you are being awfully kind, as always...

hi andrew, thanks for visiting and leaving those kind words. i totally covet your marrow scoops! one of the most memorable meals i ever had involved marrow on toast (at st.john's) - really the stuff of dreams...

hi tana, thanks for the reminder - i keep meaning to do that but keep forgetting...

hi michelle, thanks! really happy you like what you see...

hi cathy, thanks, you are very kind - w always teases me about my maximalist leanings ;)

hi mae, thanks so much for your very kind words; really glad you enjoyed the post!

hi pseudo chef, thanks! it must be the dreary weather - everyone seems to be in the mood for ossobuco!

hi melissa, thanks! i know exactly what you mean about tumbling out of bed too late in the weekends - these days, i call the butcher the day before to reserve the cuts i want/need so i never have to face another "sold out" sign!

hi sha, thanks! really enjoyed reading your post; and thanks for linking to me!

hi cin, welcome any time ;)

hi bea, me too! - my favourite bit is definitely the marrow

hi anthony, thanks! you brave man you; if all i had were a skinny bottomed pan to contend with, i wouldn't even dare try making risotto!

hi gwenda, thanks! you are making me blush ;)

hi galinusa & cath, thanks! i usually line the molds with plastic strips (which you can buy from places like phoon huat; it's the kind they wrap individual cakes or slices or pastries at the bakery with). i pop the chilled (and thus firm) cake (or whatever other dessert) out of the mold with the plastic intact, which i then remove close to serving time. hope this helps!

hi keiko, thanks! as soon as i saw that recipe in the book, i knew i simply had to make it - it puts a new spin on the ham-and-pea combination

hi viv, thanks! if money were no object, i would eat veal shanks all the time. sadly, here in singapore, they are rather dear

hi kathy, most welcome ;)

hi ruth, thanks! glad to hear you like ossobuco too; to me, few things are as comforting

hi gustad, thanks! ham hocks are a great staple to have lying around

6:34 pm, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Dazy said...

I'm making the risotto for dinner tonight. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as pretty as your picture! All other food keeps me pushing into the dining.

12:57 pm, August 21, 2009  

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