Last year I did a pretty good job of stocking the freezer full of meat to use until the next hunting season comes around. I shot 2 deer and 2 antelope which is a lot of great meat to use, bad news is, it is almost all gone. I have a couple of roasts left and some livers and hearts but the one thing in the freezer that I kept staring at every time I looked in it were these shanks. Last year before I had even started hunting I had made my mind up that I needed to keep the shanks of one of my deer whole and try to find a way to prepare them. Usually I just cut the meat off the bone and grind it up for sausages. Every time I went to the freezer they were right there in front and I kept reaching over them to get to something else because I didn't know what I wanted to do with them. At first I was thinking about a maple braised shank with a dill mustard sauce but while I was looking for recipes for a venison braciole I was making, I came across a recipe for Osso Bucco.
Osso Bucco is Italian and quite simply means "bone with a hole", there are some recipes for Osso Bucco that use other cuts of meat but a truly authentic osso bucco is made with a cross cut piece of shank that is about 3 inches thick. I have a couple of friends who have debated that for a while, one of them made an osso bucco like dish but didn't use the cross cut piece of shank. The other friend then called him on it and told him it wasn't an authentic osso bucco, so when I made this dish I couldn't help but stir that pot again.
I have only eaten osso bucco once in my life and I loved it, it was tender and rich and when I pulled the marrow out of the bone and spread it on a piece of bread I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I am actually amazed that this is the first time I have ever made this dish. Usually when I make something for the first time I will follow a recipe without changing anything, but with this dish I felt I needed to use those venison shanks instead of veal or pork shanks. The hardest part about this recipe was getting the cuts, I used to have a hand bone saw but it was really hard to make clean cuts with, so I went ahead and bought a sawzall that I use exclusively for cutting meat. It made very quick work of cutting the shanks down to size and honestly when I look at those cross cut pieces of venison shank I don't know that I have ever seen a prettier cut of meat.
Osso Bucco isn't a quick dish to just throw together so if you have never made it before you should know that this will take several hours before it is ready. The good news is, most of that time is hands off and just waiting for the meat to cook. My Osso Bucco is adapted from one by Mario Batali in his book Molto Italiano. It is a very easy recipe to follow and this dish is well worth the time you put into it. I served mine over a thyme and rosemary risotto and was absolutely amazed at the end result. The meat was fall off the bone tender and the sauce that it was braised in was rich and delicious.
Venison Osso Bucco
4 three inch thick pieces of shank
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium carrots cut into one inch chunks
1 medium onion diced
1 rib of celery diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 quart tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
grated lemon zest
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Sprinkle the shanks with salt and pepper about a 30 minutes before you start cooking. Heat the olive oil in a heavy dutch oven or other oven proof pot over medium high heat. Right before you put the shanks in sprinkle them with the cinnamon. (for whatever reason cinnamon and venison just work together)
2. Brown the shanks on all sides then remove and set aside.
3. Add the carrots,onion and celery and cook for about five minutes, then add the herbs and the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes
4. Place the shanks back in the pot and add the tomato sauce, chicken stock and white wine. bring to a boil and then cover with a heavy lid and transfer to the oven at 325 for about 3 hours. (you can check on it after about two hours to see if the meat is tender enough)
5. Mix the ingredients for the gremolata, when you are ready to serve place a piece of shank on your plate and top with the gremolata and some of the braising liquid. I served mine with risotto but I think any starch would work, even some mashed potatoes.