For many Alaskans, the moose provides sustenance, life, and sport. And while the prospect of dishes made with moose meat sound rugged and a bit backwoodsy, I assure you it can be quite the classy endeavor. There’s always a place in my heart and stomach for moose burgers and tacos, however, I was looking to switch it up and really show off how rich this beautiful meat can be. Rich is not an adjective used to describe moose too often, considering it’s extremely lean. But one cut comes to mind that has a beautiful marbling fat: the shank. And one dish comes to mind when cooking shank: Osso buco.
Osso buco is an Italian dish traditionally served using veal shank. The name “osso buco” literally means “bone with a hole,” which is why shank cuts are required. For this simple and beautiful dish, you will need simple and beautiful ingredients. Allow the richness of the meat and the marrow within the bones speak for themselves. Though you may be tempted to use red wine, white is a must. Not only is white wine traditional, moose is already very rich and the acidity of the white wine brings a brightness to the final sauce. This recipe is great for a classy date night for you and your favorite hunter, a family dinner, or meal prep for the entire week.
For the Osso Buco
- 3 or 4 2- to 3-inch thick moose shanks (beef, veal, lamb or even pork shanks can all be substituted)
- ¼ c flour, for dredging (optional)
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 4-5 ribs of celery, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 anchovies (optional)
- 2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1½ c dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 4 c chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mince anchovies and garlic together to create a paste. In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat add 2 Tbps sunflower oil and allow to heat. Generously season all sides of the moose shanks with salt and pepper then dredge lightly in flour.
Place shanks in oil and sear on all sides; you may have to do this step in batches as to not crowd the pot. Once browned, set shanks on a plate and add the mirepoix of carrots, onion, and celery to the pot. As the vegetables release their water, the fond from the meat will lift from the bottom of the pan adding a wonderful robustness to the final sauce. Once onions are translucent and the fond is completely released from the pan, add the garlic/anchovy mixture, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook for 1 minute then add the cherry tomatoes. Once the tomatoes begin to break down and stick to the pan (3-4 minutes) add the wine and bring to a boil, return shanks to the pot and add enough chicken stock to cover the meat. Return to a boil, then cover the pot with a tight lid or aluminum foil and place into the oven for 3-6 hours.
After 2 hours in the oven, gently remove the marrow from the bones with a butterknife and finely mince it into a paste before returning it to the liquid, return to the oven and check every 1.5 hours for salt and doneness. If you are using moose, the entire 6 hours will be best, other meats will take less time. I like to make osso buco the day before I serve it; this allows the flavors to develop and the sauce to mature. Serve it traditionally with buttermilk polenta or like I did with fondant potatoes.
For the Fondant Potatoes:
- 4 russet potatoes, peeled
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. sunflower oil (or other high heat oil)
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Flaky sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the ends off the potatoes then cut in half, leaving 8 thick potato “pucks.” In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt butter with oil and bring up to heat. Add potatoes flat side down and cook until browned, 6-10 minutes. Just before flipping the potatoes season with salt and pepper. Flip potatoes and sprinkle sea salt and pepper over the cooked side, place the skillet in the oven for 35-45 minutes. When finished potatoes will be crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. A perfect side for the luxurious osso buco sauce.