Marcella Hazan recently passed away. This self-taught cook and cookbook author did for Italian food what Julia Child did for French food. Of all the cookbooks in our collection, Ms. Hazan’s are the ones that Mrs. MM turns to often. So it is a loss to the culinary world to say the least, and readers/fans of Ms. Hazan will miss her. It’s a bit ironic that some of the most well-known folks in food are not formally trained or professional chefs, instead they are passionate souls with a lot of heart and soul. Sure there are technical and scientific parts to cooking, but I really believe that food made with passion and love will almost always triumph over pure technique…
Many accomplished chefs looked to Mrs. Hazan with awe, and one of them was April Bloomfield, of the Spotted Pig in New york. In her own cookbook, Ms. Bloomfield describes a visit to Mrs. Hazan’s home in Florida and describes a dish of roasted whole veal shanks that made my mouth water. Ms. Bloomfield’s recipe is her take on what she ate that day at the Hazan’s. I never thought I would get to try the recipe as finding decent veal in Manila seemed like a remote possibility. But the other day, while picking up an order for boxes and boxes of ingredients at S&L Fine Foods, I popped into their butchery and lo and behold, half a case of pink (not-milk fed) Australian veal was on display. A quick check of price tags and I realized this was the veal jackpot of the year, if not decade. :) I promptly bought six whole veal shanks, probably hind shanks that weren’t too meaty it seemed, and a whole leg of veal that way about 7 kilos or so.
I followed Ms. Bloomfield’s recipe, which WAS SO DARNED EASY it isn’t funny, and it yielded the most fantastic platter of veal. Guests for dinner that evening gave this their enthusiastic two thumbs up! So here it is, a paraphrased version of Ms. Bloomfield’s recipe for Marcella style veal shanks. Pre-heat your oven to 400F. Take several meaty-ish veal shanks and dry them well with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper and coat with some olive oil. Place in a roasting pan and place in hot oven, turning the shanks every 15-20 minutes until browned all over. Leave cooking for 1.5 hours if smaller shanks, and up to 2 hours for a really meaty shank. Lower the heat to 300F.
Chop up several large shallots, or in my case smaller native red onions and a few medium sized white onions. I also peeled say 10 cloves of garlic. Add the shallots, garlic and some fresh rosemary to the roast pan and a touch more olive oil if needed to send the veggies into a slight sizzle. After 10-15 minutes in the oven, douse the shanks with say half a cup of dry white wine, I used a sauvignon blanc as Ms. Bloomfield suggested, and return pan to the oven. Add more wine every few minutes and even a touch of water if it seems to be drying out. You will cook the shanks another hour or so, and I used up to 1.25 cups of white wine for three shanks. Once the meat looks fabulously colored (rich, caramelized) and somewhat crisp yet chewy, take it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes on a chopping board. Carve before serving or serve whole as I did here. Sprinkle the onions and garlic over the shanks. I was doing another veal dish and burned some of the onions, but never mind, they still tasted wonderful. You may wish to make a salsa verde or a light brothy sauce or gravy, but this also worked out find just as is. Definitely a new favorite around our house. Delicious.