How to Make Venison Osso Buco

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How to Make Venison Osso Buco

When it comes to shanks, a lot of hunters or processors opt to trim off the meat for either stew chunks or ground meat. However, a lot of

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When it comes to shanks, a lot of hunters or processors opt to trim off the meat for either stew chunks or ground meat. However, a lot of flavor lies in the bones of venison shanks. The bone itself enriches the sauce in which it cooks, while the bit of marrow inside is indeed a delicacy. 

Osso buco, or ossobuco, is a classic Italian dish. It’s typically made with veal shanks cut crosswise, but here we are using venison shanks (specifically whitetail, but you can use any big game shanks). Osso buco translates to “bone with a hole” for the way the shank bone is cut to expose the marrow. You can make osso buco from either front or rear shanks, though I personally prefer using hindquarter shanks.

Saw cutting venison shank.
Use a jab saw to cut the shanks while they are frozen. Jack Hennessy

A lot of hunters think you need a bandsaw to cut shanks into 3-inch-thick pieces for osso buco. But a jab saw, which costs about $10 at most hardware stores, gets the job done. You just need to use mostly frozen meat, and a little elbow grease. On an average Kansas whitetail, I can get two good-sized cuts from one hindquarter shank. 

This version of osso buco is a different take on the dish. But the concept remains the same: Seared shanks slowly braised in a hearty sauce. And if you don’t have the tools or time to cut shanks for osso buco, you can replicate this recipe with a whole shank—just cook an hour or two longer so the meat tenderizes in the sauce.

Ingredients 

Serves 2

  • Two 3-inch cross-cut shanks, 5 to 6 ounces each, plus whatever shank is left of the shank you cut
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces gourmet blend of mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, and oysters) rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • Two carrots, diced
  • Two bay leaves
  • Half a cup of red wine
  • Four garlic cloves, roasted/fried
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 cups water, boiling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

For the polenta: 

  • 3 cups water, boiling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Directions

Cut the mostly frozen shank into two 3-inch lengths with a jab saw. leave any leftover shank whole. Allow cut shanks to thaw in the fridge after sawing. When thawed, tie the shanks with kitchen twine to “cinch up” muscle and prevent them from becoming loose while cooking. Lightly salt and pepper all sides of the meat and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.

Heat a saucepan with a couple of inches of olive oil to 325 degrees F, and add 4 cloves of fresh garlic. When the garlic is brown, remove and set aside.

When you’re ready to sear the shanks, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. In a large Dutch oven, add a thin layer of olive oil from the saucepan used to fry the garlic. Heat over medium heat. Lightly coat the shanks with flour and add them to the Dutch oven, being careful not to crowd the pan, and brown both sides thoroughly. This should take 4 to 5 minutes on each side. 

Venison shanks tied with twine.
Tie the shanks with kitchen twine to keep them together. Jack Hennessy

When the shanks are thoroughly browned, remove them and set them aside. Add diced onion and carrots to the Dutch oven, along with a bit more olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are mostly soft.

Deglaze with red wine and use a wooden spoon to pick up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir a few minutes longer then add crushed tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, oregano, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes then add all the contents from the pot to a food processor along with the fried garlic. Blend thoroughly and add back to the Dutch oven.

Add the shanks to the sauce in the Dutch oven along with a couple bay leaves and cover. Put the Dutch oven into your 300-degree oven and check every hour, adding more beef stock if necessary to make sure the shanks are at least halfway submerged in the sauce. After a couple of hours, salt to taste. Cook for 4 to 6 hours, until shanks are fork tender.

sauted vegetables in a pan.
Cook the vegetables until they are soft. Jack Hennessy

To make the cheesy polenta, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan, add the corn grits and reduce heat, stirring frequently. Cook for 5 minutes (or until the water is absorbed and grits are fluffy) then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup grated parmesan a couple of minutes before serving.

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About 10 to 15 minutes before serving, heat a small skillet on medium-low and add salted butter for the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms in the skillet until seared and slightly soft. 

To serve, dish out the polenta and top with a shank and an ample helping of sauce. Add sautéed mushrooms and garnish with freshly chopped parsley (optional).

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