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Jan 28, 2011 10:39 AM

Quick veal shanks question (for Osso buco)

I want to make Osso Buco this weekend and am not sure what type of veal shanks to get. I have read some of the threads on Chowhound and there was discussion about using hind shanks which are smaller...and some from a certain part of the leg...

Can anyone offer some tips and suggestions? I'm going to a market where I can't trust that the butcher will just give me the best shanks for Osso Buco without me being specific. Knowledge is power. Thanks!

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  1. I'm no butcher. But there really isn't much to debate. It comes from the shanks, and usually they cut from the forelegs, not the hind legs. I'm not sure they will have meat from the hind legs available to you, unless you are going to a specialty meat shop that has the entire carcass there being butchered. I would be very surprised if there was much difference between the two, anyway. Perhaps more knowledgeable hounds can correct me if I'm wrong, or you can research the threads you recall.

    I would just ask them for veal shanks cut cross-wise, with as much meat on them as possible.

    1. I've actually never used veal shanks. but instead the beef shanks normally available at my markets. (Especially affordable at Latin grocers, by the way.) So we'll see what others say about the beef/veal.

      In my experience, any shank works fine if cooked well. But of course you get a higher proportion of meat and also a bit more marrow when you get the beefier cuts from higher up the leg, esp. from the rear (hind is larger, so I've thought). Taste- and texture-wise, a shank is a shank. If possible, I also recommend getting cuts that are a bit thicker than an inch (1.25-2").

      1. Foreleg shank, from as high up as possible on the leg without actually being leg. : )
        Edit: oops, Bada Bing got in there first.
        Someday I will learn to fully read threads, but apparently not today.
        Enjoy the Ossobucco; what are you serving with it?

        1. Thanks for the tips. I'm going shopping for them now. I plan on serving them with a parmesan risotto and haricots verts with lemon and pepper.

          1. Hmmmm... I've seen veal shanks on the hoof walking around moo-ing and I've seen veal shanks on the tray in my butcher's display case. I can't say I've noticed front legs having more meat than hind legs, but I suppose that depends on what your butcher is calling "shank." A true shank is the part of the leg that lies between the knee and the ankle. In cattle, there's not that much difference between the front and rear shanks. I've attached a couple of pictures, one of a cow (that obviously gives strawberry milk!) and one of a calf. You can see that whether it's an adult or a calf, there's not a lot of difference. *IF* they're cutting above the "knee," then there will be a little difference with variance from breed to breed. But the bottom line is that everywhere I've ever shopped in the last decade or two, veal is hard to come by so you probably won't have a lot of choice. Good luck with finding meaty ones!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              Thanks for the pix, especially of the strawberry milk cow!

              This was my first time making Osso Buco and I used Marcella Hazan's recipe as a guide as well as tips gleaned from Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. The Web site I'm linking to is where I got the basic recipe. The writer says the hind shanks are meatier (as does Julia Child).

              However, as was pointed out on this thread, at the store, the shanks were marked as Veal Shanks for Osso Buco, nothing more. You bought them as they were or you didn't buy them. They were expensive.


              Yesterday, I braised the shanks. I let them cool down and then refrigerated them overnight. Today the fat has risen and thickened and will be easy to. I am serving them tonight for dinner along with risotto and lemon pepper string beans, and with the same wine I used for the braise - a 2008 Vittiano white, nice and dry, and not expensive.

              I sampled the braising liquid periodically as it was cooking, and was blown away with how the flavors developed - full and rich from the veal shanks. It would be excellent on its own as a soup without the meat.

              I am not using gremolata at the end as hubby does not care for it...but there was lemon peel, parsley and garlic in the dish and the flavors are harmoniously there. Can't wait to try it with the meat tonight.

              Thanks for the tips.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                The veal shanks were excellent! I spooned off the accumulated fat and reheated them slowly. The meat was so tender you could eat it with a spoon, which we did. The spoon was also good for getting every bit of the delicious sauce which danced with savory flavors.

                The veal went very well with risotto and lemon pepper string beans.

                Will make this again.

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  They are delicious! The only problem is that when you get to be my age, you can remember when veal shanks were considered "dog bones" and the butcher gave them to you free! And now they run around the same price as tenderloin! Ah, yes. Time travel is the only answer. '-)

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I totally agree with Caroline1. Shanks, whether lamb or veal or beef, used to be cheap meat. Nowadays it costs a lot to buy these mostly bone meats, and lamb/veal shanks have become a luxury. It's also true of oxtails and short ribs.

                    I love the idea of shopping in Mexican stores.....probably Asian stores have cheaper meat as well. I suppose I'll have to research this. Tough on me, I'll admit, having to make and eat veal and/or lamb shanks. I'll bite the bullet.

                2. re: TrishUntrapped

                  I cook OB every year in the winter. The recipe you showed is very traditional, but I prefer a few changes. I dredge the shanks in a spiced flour and brown them in bacon grease (instead of veg oil) until a nice crispy brown forms all around it. Remove to side dish and spoon the oil out and keep the dredgings in. Add olive oil and some butter, then saute' the onions, carrots and celery until about cooked through. Place the shanks back on top, add one to one ratio chicken and beef broths, then some white wine (helps counter the acidity of the tomatoes)...bring to a simmering kind of boil. Add fire roasted diced tomatoes to cover and fill between the shanks completely. Lower heat and let cook for 2 hours minimum...

                  Otherwise, same spices (basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, chipotle or red peppers for a kick and a whole new layer of flavor, garlic near the end) and technique - slow cook until meat is fork tender, and the trinity has married.

                  Cous Cous with pine nuts...excellent alternative to fat pasta or to serve with, a big fat Napa Cab or complex Bordeaux. After 6 hours of love you gotta have the right wine. A great dish on a Sunday Night Football in cold rainy weather...

                3. re: Caroline1

                  last time I made Osso Buco it had a faintly sweet berry taste.... thanks now I know where that came from.