Osso Buco Pappardelle

I’ve loved osso buco since I first discovered it in Milan 15 years ago. Traditionally made from veal shanks, the name translates roughly to “bone hole,” which I suspect refers to the tender meat falling off the bone after a long, slow braising.

This one tastes as good or better than it looks
This one tastes as good or better than it looks

Over the holidays, I enjoyed this dish over pappardelle (a sumptuous noodle about two times the width of fettuccini) in an Italian restaurant in Montclair, NJ, where amazing Italian food seems to grow on trees. I recreated it using pork shoulder, since I don’t feel particularly good about using veal.

Yield

3-4 servings

Ingredients

1 cut of pork shoulder (10-12oz)

1 T olive oil

2 C mirepoix (diced onion, carrots and celery)

3 C chicken stock

12oz dry red wine (or a nice hoppy beer)

1 t dried oregano

1 bay leaf

Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 lb dry pappardelle

Instructions

Optionally, salt the pork shoulder using a Himalayan salt block (or your own method).

Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Sear the pork shoulder on high heat for two minutes on each side, then set aside in a dutch oven or slow cooker.

Add the mirepoix to the pan, reduce heat to medium and sautée until tender and brownish (4-5 minutes), adding more olive oil if necessary. Remove the vegetables and toss on top of the pork shoulder. Deglaze the pan with wine (or beer) and bring the liquid to a boil, then bring the heat to low and simmer until reduced by about half.

Now pour the wine/beer reduction and the stock into to the slow cooker or dutch oven, tossing in the oregano and bay leaf. The liquid and veggies should cover the pork shoulder completely.

Set the slow cooker to high, cover and cook for 3-4 hours. If you’re using a dutch oven, cover and cook in a conventional oven for 2-3 hours at 350°

To check for doneness, scrape the meat gently with a fork. If it falls off the bone, it’s ready.

Cook the pasta to al dente following package instructions. Toss the pasta with the veggies and some of the remaining liquids and meat. Plate each dish with the pasta, then a nice chunk of pork, some shaved parmesan, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.

Traditionally, Italians top this dish with gremolata, but I feel the strong flavors stand on their own and don’t really require it.

Braised Escarole

You’ve probably never heard of escarole — and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m always on the hunt for it, but it’s very hard to find in supermarkets, even at farmers’ markets. In this day and age, it sometimes gets served raw in hipster salads, but my family’s been serving it for years (if not centuries) cooked in chicken or ham-based soups and also as an amazing standalone side dish.

This tastes better than it looks, I assure you
This tastes better than it looks, I assure you

Known as a slightly bitter green, sautéing escarole releases a buttery texture and flavor that counteracts the bite. Optionally braising in chicken or pork stock further tempers the bitterness of this somewhat rare leafy green vegetable.

Ingredients

1 head escarole with leaves left whole, but separated from one another and washed

1 T olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or shaven

1/2 C of chicken or pork stock

Instructions

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a stainless-steel saucepan and then add the escarole, taking care not to splash water into the oil. Cook the leaves in the oil, covered, for 2-3 minutes, until they’re tender and dark green.

Now, push all the leaves to one side of the saucepan and collect the oil in the other side, adding more oil to create a little pool for the garlic. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic to the pool of olive oil, cooking only until fragrant — but never crispy, brown or smelly. Just as that garlic is reaching its flavor climax, turn off the heat and mix the garlic into the escarole vigorously to cool the garlic and stop it from cooking.

Serve immediately, or, optionally, add the stock, turn the range up to high, bring the stock to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the saucepan and allow the escarole leaves to braise for 10-15 minutes (or until most of the stock has evaporated).

Pasta con Sarde

This is my family’s take on the classic Sardinian delicacy, featuring sustainably-sourced Wild Planet sardines from the California coastline. The sweet-savory blend of fish, saffron, currants and pine nuts suggests a sophistication that hides the fact that this dish takes fewer than 15 minutes to make.

Photo credit: Allison Bucchere
Photo credit: Allison Bucchere

Ingredients

1 lb dry Buccatini (or Edison Quinoa Penne for a delicious gluten-free option)

4 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium fennel bulb, diced, with fronds removed and reserved for garnish

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

1 T tomato paste

1/2 C pine nuts

1/4 C currants

A pinch of saffron threads

1 package of Wild Planet sardines in oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Boil water for the pasta first, with a goal of having the sauce ready just before you drain it.

While the water warms, sauté the fennel and onion in the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until brown and tender. Reduce the heat to low and add all the other ingredients, adding more olive oil if things are drying out too much. (Don’t forget to cook the pasta once the water comes to a boil.) Using a wooden spoon, mash up the sardines and mix everything together in the skillet to coat the fennel and onions.

When the pasta is nice and al dente, drain (but do not rinse) then add to the skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve in shallow bowls with a garnish of fennel fronds and without parmesan cheese.