I rarely mention Top Chef on this blog, although I am hooked on the show, mostly because many of my readers don’t live in the States and don’t see the episodes we see and have no idea what the hell I am talking about.
But I will make a bit of an exception this week because of something that chef-contestant Radhika Desai said in this week's episode:
“I never use canned or aged ingredients," she said, referring to a segment that had them making a dish out of prepared and pre-packaged foods. “To me, that’s something a housewife with little time would use. It’s going to be difficult because we are used to using natural, flavorful, real ingredients.
I don’t actually think of myself as a housewife, whatever hateful thing that means, and I don’t feel like I speak for housewives, whoever they may be, but I think Radhika has been smokin' the crack during commercial breaks. I mean, I know there are lots of folks who only cook from packages and cans - I get that - but make no mistake, there is a lot of great, creative, fresh cooking coming out homes chock full of kids and busy families. Not everyone is pulling out the Campbells and the Kraft Dinner.
Has Radhika been sleeping through the food Renaissance of the last decade? Who does she think is watching Food TV and driving the careers of people like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen? If Radhika ever writes her own cookbook, it won't be chefs who buy it. It will be housewives and home cooks looking for alternatives to Hamburger Helper and Rice-a-Roni - people who want to cook simply with fresh, tasty ingredients or who want to enhance the pre-packaged food they are using. Rachel Ray built her career on this model.
Radhika might want to start developing that home-cook/housewife base now. You know, if she wants to sell any books.
And, because I want to drive this point home with a simple, time-friendly recipe, I give you Mark Bittman's stupidly good Osso Buco. "Any housewife with little time" can make it. This is a meat-falling-off-the-bone, marrow-filled orgy of veal shanks in a natural jus. It takes about two hours, but you only have to actively spend about 20 minutes cooking over the stove, the rest of the time the shanks are in the oven. It is simple and fabulous.
If you can't find good veal shanks at your local supermarket, head out to Costco or BJ's or any of those super stores. That's where I get mine. Oh and get out your pickle forks when you eat - digging into the marrow bones and pulling out all that succulent marrow and popping it in your mouth is a rare little treat.
Double the recipe and the next day you can use the soft chunks of meat and heavenly jus as a base for a hearty winter soup with pasta or beans.
Oh and I served this with a little Gremolada sprinkled over the top, also courtesy of Bittman. The Gremolada is just a little minced fresh parsley (1 tablespoon), minced lemon zest (1 tablespoon) and garlic (1/2 teaspoon) all mixed together and drizzled over the top just before serving. I had a bit of it leftover and I used that as a flavorful garnish on the soup the next day.
If you are suffering from the freezing temperatures this weekend, this Osso Buco is your winter remedy. Have a great one, house wives!
The Housewife's Osso Buco Revenge
Recipe by Mark Bittman
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 hours, largely unattended
Active Time: 20 minutes
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 4 center-cut slices veal shank, 2 pounds or more
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 3 or 4 cloves garlic, lightly mashed and peeled
* 4 anchovy fillets
* 1 cup dry white wine, chicken or beef stock, or water
* 2 teaspoons butter, optional
1. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the oil, swirl it around, and pour out any excess. Add the veal slices and cook until nicely browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. (For even browning, you can rotate the slices, but try not to disturb them too much.) Turn and brown the other side.
2. When the second side is just about completely browned, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and add the garlic and anchovies to the pan. Cook, stirring a little, until the anchovies dissolve and the garlic browns, about 2 minutes. Add the liquid and let it bubble away for about a minute.
3. Turn the heat to low and cover the skillet. Five minutes later, check to see that the mixture is simmering -- just a few bubbles appearing at once -- and adjust the heat accordingly. Cook until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone, at least 90 minutes and probably somewhat more; turn the slices every half-hour or so. (When the meat is tender, you may turn off the heat and refrigerate the dish for up to 24 hours; reheat gently before proceeding.)
4. Remove the meat to a warm platter and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce until it becomes thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter if you like, and serve the meat with the sauce spooned over it.