A few months ago a special order came in for pork osso buco. Traditionally osso buco is a dish made with veal shank and its marrow, stewed with vegetables and wine. We don’t typically cut our pork legs for osso buco; we cut the knuckle at the bottom of the leg bone. That’s ham hock. Pork osso buco requires cutting the hock an additional time across the bone to produce a thinner portion. But, an order is an order, so we filled it. After we did, we decided we wanted to cut pork osso buco all the time. Also? We wanted to eat it – frequently.
Staff Meal Trend
Our technical operations coordinator found a recipe and made some for staff meal. It’s really easy, and the result is out of this world. Making pork osso buco has become somewhat of an in-house trend. So far staff members have made and eaten it over rice, egg noodles, and polenta. It’s also really good alone, but with enough crusty bread to sop up the fatty juices. If there is any remaining, it makes outrageous leftovers.
The great thing about pork osso buco is that you can deviate from this method and still get great results. Like, you can substitute homemade tomato sauce for the chicken stock and tomato paste and it’s equally delicious.
Here’s an idea: Get some pork osso buco going on the stove at the same time as you stir your vats of tomato sauce from the recipe below. Use three cups of the in-progress sauce for the pork. By the time you’ve filled and labeled all of your jars for winter, the house will fully smell of osso buco, and you’ll have a much-deserved meal for all of your efforts. Flavorful, inexpensive, and just the thing to distract you from the end-of-summer falling temperatures.
PORK OSSO BUCO IN TOMATO SAUCE
Serves 6 with leftovers
5 pounds pork osso buco
A few carrots, cut into rounds
One big onion, chopped
A few ribs of celery (substitute lovage if you happen to have some waning in your herb garden, two tablespoons roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 bay leaf
White wine (optional)
3 cups tomato sauce
Salt and pepper the osso buco. Heat oil and butter in a heavy pot on high heat, then brown the pork pieces for a few minutes per side. Remove the pork and set aside on a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add in carrots, onions, and lovage. Stir until the onions get translucent. Now’s the time to layer in some extra flavor. If you happen to have white wine, splash in ½ a cup. Salt things. Put in your bay leaf. Cook the wine down.
Add the tomato sauce and bring it to a boil. Put your pork and any juices lingering on the plate back into the pot. The pieces should be covered to the top by the sauce. You can flip them halfway through the cooking process if you want; they might stick to the bottom over the long cooking process. Cover the pot and cook for 3 to 3.5 hours. They should be fork tender when done. When serving, the skin and fat can be moved aside, or you can eat them. We do!
SECONDS TOMATO SAUCE
Tomatoes are currently in full swing in the Hudson Valley. Late August and early September is when our local farms are selling their “seconds” – the bruised, cracked, or otherwise misfit-y specimens – for cheap. Some farms are even giving them away for free; it’s better than composting them. If you’re someone who likes to make enough tomato sauce to last through winter, this is high season.
No Navel Gazing
There are many schools of thought on tomato sauce. Some people always boil and remove the skin. Some methodically squeeze the seeds out. You could measure carefully and vary the kinds of sauce you make. Some years it’s carrots/onion/thyme. Maybe there’s a rosemary/garlic/jalapeno. But when you’re faced with a flat of seconds tomatoes you picked up at your CSA, there’s little time for that kind of navel gazing. There’s no room for conversations about which tomatoes make the best sauce. You have a responsibility to cook every ugly tomato that has been entrusted to you and quickly; they’re starting to go bad. And you don’t even know how many pounds you have.
That’s ok. Here is what has to be done: grab every pot in your house and place them on the stove with many glugs of olive oil per pot. Heat them all up. (If you have a giant sauce pot, see how many tomatoes it can hold. Add another pot as needed.)
Enlist a friend or two plus a large colander. Put the latter in the sink. Set aside a bowl for compostable bruises or other undesirable spots. Then move fast. One person rinses and very roughly chops tomatoes, as the other smashes a head or two of garlic and removes the papery skins. Someone washes fistfuls of basil (hopefully they have a lot at the CSA, too). If you want to be fancy, you could pull leaves off stems. Otherwise, stems are in.
Roughly divide the amount of garlic per pot and cook briefly, then start loading in tomato chunks as they are ready. Top off each pot with an equal-ish amount of basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Depending on what kinds of tomatoes you’re working with, things can get pretty watery in the pots. If there is a lot of liquid, cook with the lid off. If not, cover and cook for an hour, then remove the covers and reduce for at least another half hour. Taste at some point to see if it needs more salt or basil or anything. Also taste because it’s so good you will want to.
At this point you should be able to take the pots off of the heat and let them sit for an hour or so. The flavors will meld as the sauce cools down. If the sauce is still looking watery, cook for longer. If you like it thick, you may choose to cook it for several more hours. Or, do your part and drink some hot tomato juice. It’s the best. When the sauce is cool enough to touch, use an immersion blender to make it smooth.
Save those scraps for your stock bag!
Can or Freeze — You Decide
If you’re someone who cans — make sure you know what you’re doing — go for it. If you’re not up for canning, there’s no shame in freezing. There are plenty of people who freeze sauce in plastic. But it’s widely known that acidic foods can break plastic down. You can absolutely freeze in glass jars; they’re inert. Just don’t fill them more than ¾ of the way full. You need to leave room for the liquid to expand when frozen or you’ll be dealing with broken glass. Pro tip: it’s great to reuse glass jars, but wide mouth ones are easier when it comes to defrosting tomato sauce.
If you’ve gotten this far, hopefully you have a case freezer. Line it with your hard work. Then go back to the farm and see if they have more for you next week. Repeat until the tomatoes are done for the year. You can use the sauce all winter long for pretty much anything: soup, pasta, baked eggs, and of course pork osso buco.