Venison Osso Buco

A dish that originated from Milan, Italy, a solid osso buco recipe should be in the pocket of every big game hunter. I’ve made variations of osso buco over the years with both beef and venison shank, and every time, they’ve been memorable meals for all those who have tried it.

Osso buco is an excellent option to utilize venison shanks, which are full of gristle and silver skin that become melt-in-your-mouth tender after slow cooking. Though not as large as those on beef shanks, the bone marrow is also an added treat; an unctuous, richly-flavored delicacy sadly thrown away by most hunters. This osso buco recipe truly allows this part of the deer to shine.

While saffron risotto is the traditional Milanese way to serve with osso buco, I find polenta, pasta or mashed potatoes also work with this dish. I prefer polenta because it takes only 15 minutes to make and is a luxurious pairing with the shanks and tomato-based braising sauce.

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 4 hours


- 4 venison bone-in shanks, cross-cut 2-inches thick

- Kosher salt, to taste

- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

- ½ cup of all-purpose flour

- 4-5 tablespoons of vegetable oil

- 1 large onion, chopped

- 3 large carrots, chopped

- 3 ribs of celery, chopped

- Half a red bell pepper, sliced

- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste

- Herbs: 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

- 1 cup of dry white wine, such as chardonnay

- 1½ cups of Italian chopped tomatoes (e.g. Dei Fratelli brand)

- 2-3 cups of chicken broth

- Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

- Grated zest of 2 lemons, for garnish


- 2 cups of uncooked corn grits/polenta

- 8 cups of water

- 4 tablespoons of butter

- Kosher salt, to taste

- 8 ounces of goat cheese or cream cheese


Special Equipment: cooking twine


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If needed, wash off as much bone fragments/dust as possible from deer shank slices. Pat dry with paper towels and tie each shank snugly with cooking twine. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over meat. Then dredge each piece in flour—all sides—shaking off excess.


2. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Brown tops and bottoms of dredged venison for golden crust; brown in batches and do not overcrowd the pan. Add more oil as needed. Transfer browned venison to a plate and set aside. Then reduce heat to medium. (If needed, carefully discard black-burnt bits of leftover flour in the bottom of the pan, but leave the browned bits—that’s the good stuff.)


3. Add more oil to pan if needed. Add onion, carrot, celery, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until onions turn translucent, stirring often. Next, add smashed cloves of garlic, tomato paste and herbs and sauté for 1 minute.


4. Pour in white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Allow mixture to bubble for 5 minutes. Return all venison shanks to the pan. Add chopped tomatoes and then pour in enough chicken broth to almost cover the meat. Cover the Dutch oven and braise in a 325-degree oven for approximately 3 hours, or until venison is tender but not overcooked and mushy. Check halfway through to make sure you still have enough liquid, and if not, add more broth.


5. Twenty minutes before taking the venison out of the oven, prepare the polenta by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil. Slowly whisk in corn grits to prevent lumps, turn heat to low and cook for 10 minutes or until polenta is thickened and tender. Stir in butter, goat cheese and salt to taste.

Polenta will set if it sits too long. Slowly reheat with some water to loosen it up again.


6. When venison is done, carefully remove shanks from the Dutch oven so that they don’t fall apart, and then cut off cooking twine. Strain the braising liquid, mashing the vegetables down to squeeze as much sauce out as possible. Discard solids and taste sauce for seasoning.


7. Ladle polenta into a bowl. Place venison shank on top with some sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest. Use a toothpick to loosen up the bone marrow.

For step-by-step instruction on how to cut venison shanks for this osso buco dish, go to: