Osso buco is a longtime Mediterranean region favorite, usually featuring braised veal shanks. We’ve had variations with pork shanks –basically ham hocks - in Germany. When it comes to processing venison, some white-tailed deer hunters completely disregard these sinewy, silver skin-laden cuts, tossing them in the scrap pile. Others cut away the shanks and toss the meat into the grinding bag. I used to do that, but found that the silver skin made for tough grinding. That’s when we decided to treat deer shanks like veal shanks, slowly braising the meat to break down that tough skin and fiber. The chewy stuff, literally, melts away. The meat flavor in these cuts, when paired with the spices and liquids in the cooking makes for a delicious dish.
So, don’t throw away these deer shanks. Get out the Dutch oven and give yourself and your dining guests a treat. We jokingly called it "Venison Oh So Bucko."
4 Shanks, boned
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
2 large carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small/medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup dry red wine (or 8 ounces of brown ale)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
3 to 4 cups beef stock or broth
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
Rub salt over meat and let sit in refrigerator for several hours if possible. Remove from refrigerator and pat dry. Heat oil in a fairly heavy Dutch oven. Dredge meat in flour and brown in oil. Cook in batches, not crowding the pan. Remove and set aside. Add carrots, celery and onions to pan and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the flour and stir. Cook another five minutes and add garlic. After a minute, add wine or ale and deglaze the pan. Add 2/3 of the tomatoes and juice, bay leaf, herbs de Provence and 3 cups broth or enough to mostly cover the meat. Bring to a simmer and place in 280-300-degree oven.
After 90 minutes, check the oven and add broth or a little water if the mixture is drying out. Continue to cook until tender. This takes another 90 minutes or so, depending on the meat used – such as a young doe versus and old buck.Add the rest of the tomatoes and the lemon pepper and stir in before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over mashed or chunked potatoes, rice, polenta, or egg noodles. (To save time and cleanup, you can add cut potatoes to the pot about ½ hour before it’s done and cook with the meat.) Potatoes work great for absorbing the liquids in the dish. Serves 3 to 4 people.This dish pairs nicely with a hearty red wine. We matched it up with a fine Virginia wine, a Rockbridge DeChiel Meritage, a dry blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.
Note: Like many dishes featuring an amalgamation of flavors, Venison Oh So Bucko often tastes a little better served the day after the original preparation. Just don’t microwave to heat it. Put it in a casserole dish and slowly warm it in the oven. We used wine the first few times we made this but switched to brown ale for the last couple batches. I think I like it better with the brown ale. Legend brown ale, a Virginia favorite works well.