Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How To: Butcher Venison Shank for Osso Buco

Ahhh... osso buco. Everyone's talking about it. And for good reason: it's FREAKING delicious. 

What is it? Osso buco is an Italian dish that is traditionally made with cross-cut veal shanks. The shanks slowly simmer in a rich vegetable, white wine and tomato broth, and when it comes out, the meat is succulent, the sauce deep, and served over polenta or rice, you'll think you died and went to heaven. Better yet, I actually think it's more delicious made with venison, which is good news for meat hunters.

We developed a venison osso buco recipe for Outdoor Channel recently, which you can find here: http://outdoorchannel.com/article.aspx?id=48930&articletype=article&key=venison-osso-buco-with-polenta-recipe&p=dc. Sure, you can make the same recipe using the whole shank or even stew meat, but it's the cross cut that makes osso buco-- osso buco. Not only is taste important here, presentation also reigns. And you wouldn't want to miss out on the prized deer marrow, which Rick and I fight over.

But how do we get that cross cut? We once tried to cut through deer bone with a meat saw. Maybe we just really suck or our saw sucked or we didn't have the teeth placed in the right direction, but it was waaaay more work than we wanted to put into it. It would've taken us all day. It was pathetic. So we abandoned the effort, until we saw a YouTube video on Facebook that showed someone cutting through deer bone with a reciprocating saw, which was a tool we already had on hand! It looked way easier than slaving over a hand saw. I can't remember who the good Samaritan was who made that video, but thank you! It worked out great. 

So, if you're looking to butcher for venison osso buco, here's one way to do it. This will work with either front or rear shanks.

Equipment:
- Sharp knife
- Reciprocating power saw, cleaned and sanitized
- New, clean blade (size?)
- Cooking twine
- Tooth picks/small brush (for cleaning saw)

1. With a sharp knife, cut into the meat all the way around the bone into 1 1/2 to 2-inch sections. Do not try to cut through both meat and bone with the saw. Saws are made for cutting through hard materials, not soft and chewy. It will be ugly if you do this.

When you get towards the end, there won't be enough meat to cut, so save those "drumsticks" for stock or something else. You also shouldn't remove the silver skin. It will soften and give the meat a nice texture when cooked. 


2. Once you have sectioned off the shanks with a knife, nestle the blade of your saw inside each cut. Anchor the shank against something so it doesn't move, but be careful not to cut through anything you don't want to underneath. Turn on the saw and cut through the bone as straight as possible. 
3. These were hind shanks and we averaged 3 pieces of osso buco per shank. 

Next, brush and/or wash off as much bone fragments and dust as humanly possible. But be gentle and try to keep the pieces intact -- they'll want to fall apart. We don't have one and have never used one, but a bone dust scraper tool may be worth looking into if you're going to do this frequently.

(It was also a bit of a pain to clean the saw after, but I was able to get all the bone dust out of the nooks and crannies with some toothpicks and blowing into the holes over the trashcan like the big bad wolf. That came out weird.)

4. To keep the osso buco intact when cooking, tie cooking twine around the circumference of each piece. The twine should just be finger tight.The cooking twine will also help the meat cook evenly. 

For Venison Osso Buco Recipe, visit: http://outdoorchannel.com/article.aspx?id=48930&articletype=article&key=venison-osso-buco-with-polenta-recipe&p=dc


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