My Nana’s favorite meal was veal ossobuco preempted by a dry martini with extra ice on the side. I imagine she picked up this habit in Providence, Rhode Island where she raised my mom and her sister and spent most of her adult life. Providence has long had a strong Italian community and a good number of Geffner family stories involve Italian restaurants. Even today, my parents speak warmly of the great food in Federal Hill.
Though veal is readily available here in Israel, many people object and do not eat it. In addition, my college adviser wrote a tshuva for the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly regarding the kashrut status of veal based on tzar baalei chaim – the ethical treatment of animals. It was with these considerations that I decided to prepare an ossobuco Shabbat dinner with turkey legs.
Ossobuco means bone with a hole: osso – hole, buco – bone and comes from Milan. The meat is braised in white wine and turkey stock for a number of hours becoming more and more tender as time passes. The simmering stock and wine mix grows stronger in flavor as it becomes more concentrated. In addition, the broth thickens as the marrow from the bones seeps out.
Traditional ossobuco uses white wine and is flavored with cinnamon and a bay leaf. I used a newer version which calls for tomatoes. I consulted a recipe for Turkey Ossobuco and added some of my own ideas. I started with the bacon grease that I have been cooking with a lot since we started our bacon project. The grease is just the left over fat drippings collected from the bacon pan.
After that I browned my floured turkey leg pieces. Earlier that morning, I had run up to the shuk to buy some turkey legs which I asked the butcher to chop into three or four pieces. My wife Yael cannot eat gluten so I used a rice flour. This flour stayed on surprisingly well. By browning the legs it helped keep the juices sealed into the meat. Once these pieces were browned, I removed them from the pot, turned down the flame and added my mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots. The onions and celery quickly started to sweat while also picking up the flavor of the bacon grease and turkey left behind. To this mix, I added something not called for in the recipe – diced chard ribs. Chard is in season right now and we get a package of chard leaves every week in our CSA. I separated the ribs from the leaves, diced the ribs, and threw them in with the mirepoix. Later, after the broth had cooked down quite a bit, towards the end of the preparation, I added the chopped leaves.
Once my mirepoix was good and sweaty, I added a few cloves of garlic, diced, and a can of crushed tomatoes. Then I placed my turkey pieces into the mix. I made sure that the turkey pieces were surrounded by the mix and not just sitting on top. Then I added a mixture of stock and white wine to cover the pieces. I let this mixture come to a rolling boil slowly uncovered, and then turned the heat down to let it simmer for a couple of hours. In the end, the broth was bold and flavorful and the meat was tender, falling from the bone with the simplest nudge. While it was not veal, I am sure my Nana would have loved the meal. There is something so comforting about braised meat dishes. They evoke warmth and friendship and are the perfect recipe for a cool autumn Shabbat.
* A quick note about the stock. I bought a turkey neck at the shuk, put a piece of it in a small pot and brought the pot to a boil. I let this simmer for about an hour (while I prepped everything else). This is how I got stock.