Ungulate Osso Buco

Wild game osso buco

A fine, classy & very drunk dinner.

If you’re like me, every fall you package up the shanks off your deer or elk, thinking, I’ll make something fancy and elegant this year. And if you’re like me, come summer, those same packages are still sitting at the bottom of a now-barren chest freezer, destined for burger meat. But not this year! I told myself last fall. Thinking ahead, I hack-sawed my deer shanks into little medallions before I froze them. Then, a few weeks later, I snatched them out of the freezer, called a handful of friends, cracked a bottle of wine (okay... a few bottles), and spent the afternoon whipping up a feast.

Ingredient amounts in the following recipe are inexact, to say the least. But there’s a reason for that (and it’s not just ’cause I was wine-drunk!). The dish is slow-braised in a Dutch oven, meaning everything boils down into a thick, rich broth. Start with a spoonful each of tomato paste, Dijon, and balsamic, and add more as desired for richness or acidity. The wine adds some acidity as well—use about a half-cup. In terms of specifics, I play a fun grocery-store game called, “What’s the cheapest bottle of red at Town & Country?” In short, there’s really no way to screw this one up. Enjoy it with your hunting pals and a couple good friends.

Elk or deer shanks, sawed into 2-inch thick medallions
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 white onion
A few cloves garlic (peeled)
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
Red wine
Venison bone broth or chicken broth
Tomato paste
Dijon mustard
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh rosemary, thyme & sage

1. Tie up each shank with twine to keep the meat and bone attached during cooking. Generously salt and pepper the shanks, and toss ’em around in a bowl of flour.

2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large enameled Dutch oven on the stovetop. Sear the shanks for a couple minutes on all sides.

3. Remove the shanks and add another drizzle of oil to the pan. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots for a few minutes.

4. Deglaze the pan with red wine. Cook for a minute, then add the shanks back in along with a few cups of broth, a spoonful of tomato paste, a spoonful of Dijon, a splash of balsamic, the whole garlic cloves, and the herbs.

5. Cover with a lid and slip the pot into the oven at 350 degrees for three to four hours, or until the meat is nearly fall-apart tender. Remove the lid, crank the oven to 450 degrees (or broil), and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes to caramelize and slightly crisp the top.

6. Serve with mashed potatoes and a simple gremolata made from chopped Italian parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and a coarse salt.

Eli Fournier credits his twin brother, Isaac, with the inspiration for this recipe. In typical brotherly fashion, Isaac made off to Colorado with the author’s meat grinder last year, forcing him to get creative with his whole shanks.