Recipe: Venison Osso Bucco
Turn an underutilized cut into an unforgettable meal.
I came to preparing venison shanks pretty late in my hunting and wild game eating career. For most of that time, shanks (think of your forearm) were treated in a way common to a lot of deer hunters; the meat was stripped from the bone and tossed in the trimmings pile to be ground to burger. Don't get me wrong, I love venison burger; we eat at least 2 pounds of it a week in our home. That said, you can make some amazingly rich and flavorful dishes with this cut, and I’m confident that a shank will never see the grinder again in my kitchen. I'd be willing to bet that you will feel the same way if you give this recipe a chance.
Osso buco (or ossobuco, osso bucco) is an Italian dish made from cross cut shanks braised with vegetables. The name translates to "bone with a hole," which describes the marrow hole in the center of the bone cross section. Traditionally made from veal, the recipe works wonderfully with the shanks of wild ungulates like deer and elk. Someday I hope to even make this dish with black bear. My take on osso bucco is adapted from recipes provided by Steven Rinella as well as the classic LL. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook, which is a great place to start if you are new to wild game cooking. Long out of print, hardcover copies can be found for pennies on Amazon
Two whole frozen venison shanks, sawed into 2 inch disks. A standard hack saw works great for this task. I tend to wrap the shanks whole in paper while butchering the deer prior to storing them in my freezer. I then saw the shanks into discs while frozen, letting the individual pieces thaw in my refrigerator prior to preparing the meal.
1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons bacon fat (vegetable oil works if you don’t have the bacon grease)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bag baby carrots, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1, 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1, 8 ounce can of beef stock
1 cup of red wine
3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning (or 1 tablespoon each of individual seasonings like rosemary, thyme, and oregano.
2 tablespoons chopped parsley.
Roll shanks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
Brown the shanks in the bacon fat in a hot, large cast iron skillet or other appropriately sized stovetop pan. Don’t crowd the shanks. Set shanks aside.
Add butter and sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-6 minutes over medium heat or until slightly browned.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and ½ your beef broth and wine. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.
Add shanks on top of the bed of vegetables and enough wine and broth to submerge ¾ of the shank disks.
Simmer covered for 4 hours, checking periodically to add additional wine or broth should the liquid evaporate too much. Cooking times will vary with the size of the shank. When the meat is just about ready to fall off the bone, it’s done.
Serve over polenta, risotto or even mashed potatoes. Add a bit of the minced parsley on top for added presentation points.
Although the dish appears "fancy" by most modern American standards, it has always been a working man’s meal as shanks were cheap and easy to obtain. Delicious and super easy make, if your hunt results in a harvest make sure to save those shanks for this most excellent dish.