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Osso Bucco: Date Night on a Budget

Updated: Feb 7

Tender veal shanks are braised in wine and stock, with aromatics and gremolata—This showstopping dish is for a special night.

Osso Bucco on a Budget
Osso Bucco with Gremolata

While always tries to keep the cost of recipes under $15, some nights call for something extra so that this one will come in just under $20. When Julia Child showed the world how to cook Osso Bucco on The French Chef more than a half-century ago, she described the veal shank as a budget cut. Now, finding a veal shank under $20 is a feat. This recipe was inspired by Julia's recipe and by a recipe from the Blue Apron Cookbook. Some recipes for Osso Bucco by television and world-class chefs are so unattainable that the recipes have no place on this page. But you can afford to serve great food if you shop carefully and skip the expensive but unnecessary ingredients like expensive tomatoes and fine wines.

What you need for this recipe

Veal Shank cooking with
Ingredients for Osso Bucco

The Meat

This is the big expense of Osso Bucco, which is ironic because veal shanks were a budget cut for years before becoming stylish (like marrow bones in 2023, once Michelon-starred restaurants start serving something it is scarce and expensive). You have three options:

  1. Order from Wild Fork Foods or a similar retailer. They have many locations in Florida, Philadelphia, Chicago, Texas, and Southern California. They offer free local delivery and reasonable shipping for members ($30/year). They have a $13.48 package of chops in Florida and a $11.98 package in California. As you can see from the above photo, the shanks are extremely meaty. I found one to be a large serving.

  2. Try your local butcher shop or retailer. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Use a beef shank - from an older cow. Amazon has beef shanks under $7 per pound, but those also involve shipping costs. Wild Fork has a package under $8.

It's up to you, but if you find a reasonably priced veal shank, buy and freeze it. You might not see it again for a while. I used Wild Fork Foods, which was 1.2 pounds for $13.48. I was happy with my purchase because similar quality is sold online for $50+.

Once you find your veal shanks, remember that the flavor of any Osso Bucco is determined when you brown the shanks. So, dry them carefully with paper towels, dust lightly with flour, and heat olive oil until it's shimmering. Then, place your veal shank in and let it brown. Please don't touch it for at least five minutes. Browning a veal shank on all sides should take 10-15 minutes.

How to brown veal shanks
Browning Veal Shanks

The Veggies and Aromatics

This dish contains diced onions, carrots, celery, and pressed garlic. It is important to dice these things very finely before sauteing them. This involves cutting the carrot or celery in 6-inch lengths, then slicing very thinly, then cutting these thin slices into tiny cubes.

How to  dice finely
Cutting Aromatics into Fine Dice

Press the garlic with a garlic press or mince it very fine. If you do the fine dice correctly, the vegetables will reduce and become part of the sauce. It is hard to describe, but it is wonderful when you get it right.

Sauteing aromatics

The Wine

The right wine for Osso Bucco is dry white, but any decent wine will do. I love to buy four packs of wine at Publix because I often do not drink the entire bottle, and this is a terrific way to limit expenses. But a Pinot Grigio at Aldi from Winking Owl is under $4. You need a cup of wine for this dish, but it does not need to break the bank. I used a Sauvignon Blanc.

The Broth

The amount of space dedicated to which type of broth--chicken or beef--should be used in Osso Bucco is disproportionate to the improvement made to the dish. If you have homemade stock, obviously use it. If you don't, embellish what you have and use it.

I took a can of cheap beef stock and added 1/2 teaspoon of Better than Bouillon Beef and an envelope of gelatin. If you have made homemade chicken stock, you can skip the gelatin, as your stock will have natural thickeners from boiling the bones. If your stock is from a can, use the gelatin to thicken the sauce if you like it thicker, or skip the gelatin if you like it thinner.

The cooking stockpot

Oven or Stovetop

After browning your veal and bringing your whole dish to a simmer, you can slow-cook it on the stovetop or in the oven. Either method will produce a wonderful result. If it's warm weather and you don't want to heat the kitchen, you might prefer the stovetop over a hot oven, as this dish takes at least two hours.

Osso Bucco during cooking

The Gremolata

Finely chop Italian parsley, lemon zest, and capers, and add a pressed or mashed garlic clove. Mix and drizzle on a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. This mix of herbs makes the dish, and the capers add a salty brininess. Put a little Gremolata in the sauce when it's done, and put the rest over the Osso Bucco as it is served.

Osso Bucco with Gremolata (Cost is $20.48 for two large servings)

Cost of Ingredients

  • 1.25-3 pounds veal shanks ($13.48, Wild Fork Foods, serves 2-4)

  • 1/2 c. Flour ($0.10)

  • Olive Oil ($0.25)

  • Salt and Pepper

  • One medium or two small yellow onions, very small dice ($0.30)

  • Two carrots, very small dice ($0.25, Aldi)

  • Two ribs of celery, very small dice ($0.25, Aldi)

  • Four cloves of garlic, pressed ($0.10, Aldi)

  • 1/4 c. (half a stick) of unsalted butter ($0.50, Aldi)

  • Zest of one lemon (Aldi)$ 0.40

  • 2 t. tomato paste ($0.10)

  • 1 c. dry white wine, like sauvignon black or Pinot Griego ($2.0, Publix)

  • 1 14 0z can diced tomatoes ($1.00, Aldi)

  • 1-2 c. stock, see note above. ($0.50)

  • 1/2 c. Italian Parsley, chopped ($0.50, Aldi)

  • Zest of one lemon, finely grated ($0.40)

  • one clove Garlic ($0.10)

  • 2 T. Capers, chopped ($0.25)

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