Food

From The 4-Hour Chef: Ridiculously Easy Osso Buco

I’ve been lusting after this book for a while now but it was only a few weeks ago that I finally got my hands on a copy thanks to my friend Ferdi who lugged it back home all the way from the States. Happy happy joy joy!

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At a glance, The 4-Hour Chef  looks like a cookbook but it’s light years more than that with a scope that covers things like learning new languages (Author Tim Ferriss learned Spanish in 8 weeks. Eight weeks!) and kicking ass at camping among others. It’s gonna take me a while to finish this one – it is mammoth and would double excellently as a doorstop – but that’s fine and I plan to enjoy taking my time with it.

To celebrate, I decided to try my hand at the first recipe that appears on this book. Lesson # 1 is what the author calls “osso buko”, a play on the original “osso buco”, as a jab at how this is a simplified idiot-proof version and therefore a sort of spoof.

I’ve never made this before and have only tried it once and quite enjoyed it. I announced to the folks that I’ll be taking care of dinner. You better deliver, Ferriss!

To make, I used:

About 1 kg beef shanks (the author uses 4 12-oz lamb shanks)

1 1/2 medium carrots

1 480 g can, whole peeled tomatoes (the author uses a 425 g can which was nowhere to be found in my supermarket)

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (or 3 pinches of garlic powder)

2 T extra virgin olive oil

About 1/3 cup dry white wine (the author uses about 1/3 bottle – more on this later)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

A handful of whole black olives (because OLIVE GOOD and I couldn’t resist)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 C/350 F. Peel and chop the carrots into more or less equal-sized sticks. The idea is to make a bed of carrots in your Dutch oven.

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2. Add the beef shanks.

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3. Squish the whole tomatoes by hand and add into the Dutch oven. Careful, they squirt! Add the tomato juice as well. I left out about a third of the tomato juice because I used a bigger can of tomatoes than was required. Also, my Dutch oven (which is suuuuuper cute and pink, show you later) is rather small and I didn’t want things to overflow. If you have a good-sized Dutch oven, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to use all the tomato juice? With a bit of adjustment on the salt, of course.

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4. Add in raw garlic. Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil and add just enough white wine so about 3/4 of the shanks are submerged. A rule of thumb for cooking with wine is to use wine that you enjoy drinking. I’m no sommelier but I really like Hardy’s Riesling so I went with that. It’s not the driest wine out there though, FYI. As for using about 1/3 cup when the author uses 1/3 bottle – any more and my shanks would’ve been swimming.

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5. End with a generous grinding of black pepper (about 10 enthusiastic turns of the mill if you wanna be anal about it) and 3 pinches of salt sprinkled from a height for even distribution.

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This now goes in the oven and cooks for 2 hours. Didn’t I tell you it was ridiculously easy? It’s ridiculously easy.

Which is why it was troubling when I checked after 2 hours and found that the meat wasn’t tender enough. Urgh. 

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I brought this back to the oven and cooked for another 30 minutes. Then another 20 with some whole olives thrown in and the oven turned down to 150 C. At this point, it still wasn’t as tender as I would’ve liked (fall-off-the-bone) but it was passable plus the folks were getting grumpy because they were hungry. Kids.

So now I present to you my first attempt at osso buco!

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HOW CUTE IS MY PINK DUTCH OVEN???

Looks pretty sexy, right? But then there’s the all-important issue of the meat. The meat. 

A couple things come to mind. 1) I think my shanks are too meaty. Meat near the bone is tastier and more tender and I think there was just too much meat around each bone for it to soften completely in 2 hours. 2) My oven may have to be re-calibrated. I haven’t done that once in the 2+ plus years I’ve used it and maybe the temperature is a bit off. Perhaps it was too hot? 3) The recipe is a sham. But I highly doubt that.

I served it up anyway with some store-bought garlic bread.

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The flavors are pretty darn good actually. And sopping up sauce with garlic bread is always fun.

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Will make again with learned lessons in mind. Not bad Ferriss, not bad!

Fun Food Fact: Osso buco literally translates to “bone hole” in Italian.

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11 replies »

  1. Hey Sam!

    Now before you murder someone because of the disappointing result of your recent foray I have the answers to your problem. And as I went through your blog entry I ticked off a couple of uh-oh’s along the way.
    1) The amount of liquid in your recipe and
    2) The size of your dutch oven albeit how cute it is. (I prefer the shade of carnation pink or as @MikeyBustos would call it car-nay-chon.)

    The recipe required you to use a third of a bottle of white wine but you have decided to add a third of a cup instead and you should have used all of the juices of the crushed tomatoes but all for the reason of preventing the wine and juice in spilling over, right?

    What to do? Bigger pot. So there is more room for liquid.Usually a recipe like this needs a liter and a half or just enough for the meat to be partially submerged in it.

    Okay,we kinda already know this but just to point it.out. The beauty and basic idea of braising and stews such as boeuf bourguingon is that the moisture provided by (the proper amount of) liquids such as the wine, stock, and water content from the tomatoes subjected by a slow cooking process breaks down collagen and connective tissue blah blah blah and other chemical reactions that make the meat tender. (Yeah, science!) Perfect for cheap and tough cuts like shanks, shoulder etc. And with the liquid reduced it concentrates the flavor and infusing it into the meat. (Yeah, science!)

    It’s not really the size of the beef shanks that made it tough (My God! Without sounding gay those are gorgeous hunks) but by the unfortunate way it was cooked. And it would be a great idea to get yourself a decent oven thermometer to keep the proper temp in check. Is your oven electric? With gas types I’d rather use oven thermometers than relying on temperature knobs.

    TLDR… – —> Buy. Bigger. Dutch oven. <—-

    The book is a sham. Ridiculously easy? Yes. But in this case easy = lazy. It takes away the joy of cooking by oversimplifying it to a fault. By just dumping everything in and cook away? How hard is it to add a few onions and celery to the mix?

    The traditional recipe is as simple as it gets and can be done easily under 4 hours. And you won't miss out on the flavors unlike the recipe on topic But who am I to judge a book written by a health nut by one recipe alone?

    • Excellent points! I plan to reduce the meat in half next time with the same amount of liquid. So you don’t think I should get smaller shanks with less meat around the bone?

      As for the book, as far as I could tell (and I’m not going on much here) he is trying to ease people into cooking. I think many are intimidated by it and/or are overwhelmed by the plethora of information out there. So he simplifies. Besides, I’m sure you’d agree that once you have the basics going you can start playing around and that’s when the real cooking begins.

      Thank you for your comment, Charlie! I’m making this again in a couple days and I’ll keep your pointers in mind. 🙂

      • Yeah. Down to basics, getting comfortable and gaining confidence but then again…. And they say that there are people out there who can’t even boil water. Really?

        Anyhoo, less meat? Booo. Halve the recipe instead (wait, that’s like the same thing) adjust the cooking time. You’ll still stick to Ferriss’s recipe? Yucchh. Thank goodness for the bones for giving it some flavor, I assume. I’m not sure about his liquid proportions. Try eyeballing it and fill the pot covering about halfway or 3/4 up the meat. And bring the whole lot to a boil first over the stove stop before popping it in straight to the oven.

        Are you going to do a Julie Powell with this book a la Julie and Julia? 🙂

        And congratulations now that you’re going to be writing restaurant features with Yahoo! 😀 Sweet.
        Online high five!

  2. A little update: I made this again with half the meat (the shanks were also thinner) with some celery, onion, dried thyme and dried oregano in the mix. I seared the shanks and sauteed the mirepoix. Retained more or less the same amount of tomatoes but added more wine and added some beef stock. Cooked in the oven for 3 hours while replenishing with above liquids when it would reduce. Turned out great!

  3. I’ve been looking for a hot pink/fuschia cast iron Dutch oven for over a year & haven’t found one. Tiffani Thiessen uses one on her cooking show(it’s huge)but they never show the brand. Everyone seems to be so hush hush about the pink ovens. I also noticed a woman on facebook sent a post to Tiffani’s production company H2R Productions asking where she could purchase one & it looks like they never responded(Google “Tiffani Thiessen’s pink cast iron Dutch oven and it will show up in the results). If someone could break the silence and share some info that would be great.

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