Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Osso up, pardner!

It's that time of year again, when the temp turns chilly, the leaves begin to change into vibrant, fiery colours, and acorns plummet from the trees like a mad legion of kamikazees.

Well, at least the last two are correct. Strangely enough, it's still fairly temperate 'round these Eastern shores. While my spirit calls for warming stews and casseroles, the bod sez: "Dude! Let's throw some freakin' knocks on the grill!".

Nonetheless, a girl has to have her priorities, and one of those is the slow-roasted pleasure of osso bucco. The first time I experienced this special dish was during my California wine country extavaganza. DucCat and I had been celebrating life, love, and eternal happiness with friends and family throughout most of our stay. Towards the end, we had a few days alone, and spent that first evening at Santi's, in Geyserville.

The restaurant was tiny, and in a small town that lay at the base of the vine-covered hills we were staying upon. We didn't expect much, but walking inside were completely immersed in a wonderful dining experience, from start to finish. My personal highlight was discovering Osso Bucco for the first time.

I hadn't really known what to expect, only that I'd wanted to try it for some time after hearing my mother-in-law speak of the wonders of bone marrow.

After that meal, I became a hardcore bone marrow addict. The flavourful sauce and tender veal were incredible in and of their own right. The marrow itself- I really understood it from that first tentative lick. Rich, like the best butter I'd ever tasted, yet redolent of the finest veal stock. Truly dreamy. I suddenly understood the reason my mother-in-law ruthlessly cracked open bones during the most proper of dinner parties- the relentless search for that full-flavoured decadent treat.

After that journey, DucCat and I attempted an osso recipe from Mario Batali. It was good- very good, actually, but not superlative. We took a hiatus from the osso.

A few months later, DucCat decided to try out a new method on impulse. Without telling me, he went through a few hours of kitchen witchery, and greeted me with this upon walking in the door. It was insanely good, better than Mario's, and better than Santi's. I begged him to write down the recipe, or at least vocalise the steps for me, but no can do. "A man has to have his secrets," he said cryptically.

This happened last year. I'd been craving it for some time, but even this half-assed change in seasons has pushed forefront the tempting idea of truly wonderful osso bucco. I decided to give Mario's recipe another try.

DucCat came home, took a whiff of the lovely scents wafting about, and popped open a special bottle in anticipation of the great meal. I sipped upon it as I finished things, but sadly was quite dis-enchanted. The Gigondas 1999 Pierre Amadieu proved to be far too filled with fruit. All I could taste was an overwhelming grapiness, and after a couple of tastes, made that same sound that Shishi makes when she play-fights with DucCat (sort of like a funny cough). I left the remainder for him.

Enjoying another glass of wine, he quickly pulled together a beautiful little salad for me, in thanks for the the osso bucco love.

As he did so, I plucked another bottle from the ample kitchen rack, my new favourite: the La Fete Rouge Cuvee Lambray 2003. This is absolutely my current top house wine. It's not bodacious, it's not velvet incarnate, and it won't make you see god. Or goddess.

What it is... like a truly wonderful example of pinot-beaujolais, with a very light body, pleasantly soft, yet laced with a fruity, fun stroke expanding across the palate. It's just fun, and makes me go bananas and raspberries and cherries, oh my! Most folks would just like this- for some reason, possibly to drive my wine-buyer husband a little crazy, I LOVE IT! I can't imagine you would find a better red wine for any public gatherings forthcoming over then next couple of months. Huzzah!

When the osso finally emerged, everything seemed beautiful.

The smell was there, the look was there, but we tasted- and that PARTICULAR dizzying flavour was missing. Once again, it was good, and if I'd never tasted DucCat's (or Santi's), I wouldn't be aware of what was missing. Is something wrong with the directions? I'm just not sure, as once again, this recipe failed to completely please.

The good thing about osso bucco is that even when the meat/sauce combo doesn't quite live up to it, the marrow always does.

Here's the money shot. I quivered with anticipatory pleasure, hence the blurred motion.

We made three pieces of the veal, and I shamelessly hollowed out two of the bones for my very own. Some things just make the not-change-of-seasons worthwhile.

Still, I'd love to hear anybody's personal take on osso bucco. What makes it good for you? Where have you had the best? What recipe makes your temperature rise?


Blogger ilva said...

s'kat-do you want me to check out here in my Italian food bibles?

November 09, 2005 3:26 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Oh, ilva, that would be absolutely fantastic! Now that would really be right from the source- thanks!

November 09, 2005 7:41 AM  
Blogger ilva said...

ok, I'll take a look tonight!

November 09, 2005 9:59 AM  
Blogger deborah said...

hey there,

great post! i heart osso bucco - and love the traditional italian version with lots of tomatoey sauce as well as it made into a curry and the sauce mopped up with fluffy white rice. ofcourse eating the marrow is either sucked or delicately taken out with the end of a teaspoon ;)

November 09, 2005 9:42 PM  
Blogger ilva said...

I sent you a mail with a recipe...

November 10, 2005 10:24 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Saffron, you are a girl after my own heart! Although, I don't know that my teaspoon technique is so much 'delicate'.

Ilva, got it- thanks so much for taking the time to look it up. I have the feeling it will be a long, cold winter, and this will be the perfect meal for experimentation.

November 11, 2005 9:08 PM  

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