foodie mcfooderson

a home cook with notions & an appetite

ad hoc slow roasted veal shank with creamy polenta

Oh, glorious veal.  Why must you be so expensive?  You make such delicious things.  Well, you also could easily make this with lamb shanks. If you don’t like lamb…this is not going to be the entry for you.

Anyway, I went to my Whole Foods where they didn’t have whole veal shanks at the counter, but they had osso bucco out in their veal section. So I talked to meat guy who checked and found they had whole shanks in the back (osso bucco are sliced up shanks). They gladly sold me whole shanks. Still spendy even though no additional slicing was required.  (To this day, I’m not sure that I’ve fully admitted the actual per pound cost to husband…only that he’s been wrong on his per-pound guesses.  I think it’s best that we just remember how good this dish is instead of fussing over tiny details.)

This is yet another one of those layered recipes.  So this recipe actually ended up being credit for these recipes:

  • ad hoc slow-roasted veal shank
  • ad hoc gremolata
  • ad hoc dried bread crumbs
  • ad hoc polenta

Even though it won’t be used until the end, I needed to make dry bread crumbs first. And I swear it’s a cheap way of making bread crumbs similar to panko at home.  The ingredients?

  • 1 loaf country bread

Daunting list, eh?  The reality is that it’s all about the prep and patience.  Step 1: get rid of the crusts and tear the bread into pieces.  As you can see, my bread crust cutting and tearing skills are top-notch.

Step 2: Pulverize the torn bread in the food processor.  Exciting action shots, no?  The truth is that this only takes a minute or two and definitely beats trying to tear the bread into tinier pieces, grating it or chopping it up.  In the end, isn’t also about making your food processor feel needed and loved as well?

Now it’s all about having a bit of time.  And a low oven.  250 degrees, to be exact.  (This is Step 3.)

After spreading out the breadcrumbs on a foil-lined baking sheet, the first bake is 30 minutes.  After that, it’s a matter of tossing the crumbs a bit and baking for another 30 minutes.

By the way, this is yet another one of those, “this is what you’d probably doing as a professional chef when you start,” thoughts I have.  All day, tearing down loaves of bread to make bread crumbs.  Absolute glamor.

As you can see, these are really just very dry and not terribly browned.  Keller gives you the option to pulverize these again in the food processor for extra-fine bread crumbs, but these were already pretty nice.

Onto the veal!

I’m sounding like a broken record, but again, the ingredients are very simple:

  • 2 whole veal shanks
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large celery stalks
  • kosher salt & black pepper
  • canola oil

I did have some minor cleanup on the veal shanks – taking off some membrane that wouldn’t cook down (shiny silver = not good!) and a little rinsing.   Beyond that, the biggest barrier to this dish? Time. That’s it. Because if you can chop some vegetables, you’re going to be able to make this dish.  And it’s going to be amazing.

It starts with chopping the onions and celery – they just get tossed into a baking dish. Then it’s the generous salting and peppering of the veal shanks. A quick browning in an oiled pan and then into the baking dish. Where these guys bake for nearly 8 hours and get turned every 2. No fancy coverings, no basting, nothing but baking low and slow (275 degrees) for 7-8 hours until it is falling off the bone and shreddable with forks. MMMMMMM:

Before we top off the veal – onto the polenta.  Brace your arteries.

The ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock (from the freezer and this recipe again)
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound polenta
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 Tbs unsalted butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil (since I’m making the creamy version)

Let’s get on with the madness, shall we?

When I make weeknight polenta, I generally mix a bit of broth and milk (it’s my special 3:1 mix…and now everyone knows!) in one pan and go from there.  It’s not a huge production.  It’s also a polenta that needs to be served immediately and doesn’t make for the best leftovers.

This polenta is a bit more involved.  For starters, it’s one where I heat my stock and garlic in one pan and heavy cream in another.  The stock needs to come to a boil (did I forget to mention that there’s also salt in this?).  The cream is merely being warmed over a low heat.

It should go without saying that I’m not using instant polenta.  I don’t even use the stuff when I do weeknight.  Don’t use that stuff…because you can even use straight-up cornmeal to make polenta.  Either way, the instant is gross.  In my fast week-night version, it doesn’t save you enough time for the off-taste.

Back to the actual recipe.  I add the polenta to the stock and stir and stir and stir and stir until it dries out.  No one likes dry polenta, so then I add the butter and cream a bit at time all the time stirring (you really need to like stirring for this) as it takes on more and more of the dairy:

I know you’re thinking, “hey, that looks good, but I don’t know if you’ve added quite enough to that polenta!” – well, don’t worry, you drizzle olive oil over it in the end:

(SPOILER: Rich doesn’t even begin to describe the polenta. This was insanely good, but very filling. We had a ton of leftovers.)

Remember the bread crumbs?  We’ve returned to gild the lily and make gremolata with the following (again, simple ingredients):

  • 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • kosher salt & black pepper

At this point, all I  really want is to eat the veal, but the good news is that the gremolata comes together really fast.  First, I add a small amount of olive oil to the bread crumbs and mix just enough to coat.  Step 2?  The parsly is added, lemon peel is grated directly in and garlic is grated into the mix:

A bit of salt and pepper and I have a lovely condiment to gild the dish – it’s a crunchy, clean, zippy little bite that just adds to the rich, meatiness of the veal and polenta.  To assemble the final dish, it’s polenta, shredded veal and gremolata.

In the end, it’s probably good that Whole Foods charges what they charge for veal shanks.  Otherwise, I’d want to eat this as often as possible.


One comment on “ad hoc slow roasted veal shank with creamy polenta

  1. Pingback: ad hoc summer vegetable gratin « foodie mcfooderson

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2011 by in ad hoc and tagged , , , , , , .

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