Moving two people, a dog and all of our accumulated accoutrements from more than four years of surprisingly acquisitive cohabitation from Brooklyn Heights to White Plains — with just a 16-foot truck, eight willing hands and four willing paws of various sizes and strengths (none of them notably large or powerful) — was a feat that required the skills and know-how of a Tetris champ, in addition to emotional fortitude, patience and good humor.
None of those present was, is, or ever will be, a Tetris champ.
I won’t speak for my husband, father or our friend John, but I will say that I can often be found slumped under the mere weight of my handbag, maniacally tapping my Delman ballet flats and glaring at sweetly smiling shopgirls when asked to wait for more than a beat for my Stumptown latte.
Adding to the usual DIY moving drama was the fact that an apparently unhinged homeless man, who has taken a keen interest in our dog Penny, has started breaking into the warren of alleyways surrounding our old Brooklyn Heights apartment. According to a neighbor who alerted me to the situation, another neighbor from across the street has video footage of the man scaling the brick walls and iron gates between brownstones on our block; he has also been taped breaking padlocks and setting up a lean-to in an alley adjacent to our old apartment.
This development is part of an insidious pattern that Stephen and I have noticed of late: the city wants us out.
Between being hit by a truck and getting mugged in the last six months, finding out that an unbalanced nomad (who by all appearances is a perfectly nice man who just needs his meds [exhibit A: I have often walked past him as he shadow-boxes under a lamplight at dusk; exhibit B: he has many invisible friends and foes with whom he is in constant contact and enjoys cackling maniacally with or accusing of betrayal, loudly and at all hours; exhibit C: his wall-scaling and lock-busting activities]) has set-up camp outside of our little patch of earth, I can’t help but think that this mercurial, grimy, Disney-fied, be-Trumped city wants to spit me out like a pesky loogie.
Mission successful, city! I am running away from both the violence and crazy and the empty, tinny neon glitz of yuppies uber alles.
Let the unpacking begin. Needless to say, I have started with the kitchen first.
To celebrate the fact that we didn’t shatter any of our wedding gifts, our major furniture purchases or the spines that belong to us, my Dad, Penny or our friend John, not to mention commit (or become the victim of) homicide, I decided to make Osso Buco in our brand new, spacious, glorious faux-urban new apartment in exciting downtown White Plains Sunday night.
Then I hit Whole Foods and was bitch-slapped by reality; a dame who enjoys shaking her hoary bazangas at me quite frequently. $15.99 a pound? Um. No. If we were too cheap to shell out for professional movers, I’m certainly not going to cough up that kind of cash for a hunk or two of protein. I don’t care if it comes from a humanely raised calf who wasn’t given hormones while it frolicked on a gorgeous, rolling farm at which butterflies loop lazily through lilac-flecked meadows 117 miles from the store.
Instead, I bought a pound and a half of beef marrow bones ($4.43) and almost two pounds of boneless chuck roast ($8.78) with the possibly delusional notion of replicating the unique richness and tenderness of the osso bucco — at a fraction of the price and with all of the hormone-free, organic, free-range meat hippie cred. It would require a bit more seasoning, finesse and braising, but a lot less cashola.
Budget Osso Buco Roast
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 6 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones
- Scant 2 pounds boneless chuck roast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 celery rib, peeled and finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth or stock
- 28-ounce can of diced plum tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Kalamata black olives, pitted and halved
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 fresh sprigs of parsley
- 1 Turkish bay leaf
- 1 TBSP minced lemon zest
- 1/2 TBSP kosher salt
- 1/2 TBSP black pepper
For the gremolata:
- 3 TBSP flat leaf parsley, fresh, finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees; meanwhile, chop your veg and allow bones and meat to come to room temperature.
- Season bones and roast with salt and pepper. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a dutch oven or other large, ovenproof cooking vessel over medium-high heat. Allow butter to foam up. Add room temperature bones to pan and brown for about 10 minutes. Move bones to sides of pan and add roast. Brown on all sides, about 10-12 minutes. Remove to plate and set aside.
- Add additional tablespoon of butter to pan, reduce heat to medium and add onions, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 to 7minutes until onions are golden. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up brown bits and cooking liquid down a bit, about 3 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and cook for another 1 to minutes, stirring vigorously. Add the rest of the stew ingredients, bring to a boil, continue stirring. Add meat and bones to mix, return to simmer. Add a dash of salt.
- Cover and put in oven. Braise for about three hours, checking and flipping the meat periodically. Raise heat to 375 degree for the last 20 minutes.
- When fork tender, remove from oven. Discard the parsley and bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Stir together gremolata ingredients in a small bowl, sprinkle over the dish and serve.
I served the Budget Osso Buco with my favorite rice pilaf. The crunchy, green pistachios add a punch of color and savory-salty umami to the classic pilaf; the raisins bring the sweet. Just a touch of butter elevates the humble dish, without rendering it unfit for my husband’s clogged arteries. This can be prepped and cooked while the Budget Osso Buco is in the oven.
Pistachio and Golden Raisin Rice Pilaf
Makes 4 generous servings
- 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp butter
- 1 cup brown jasmine rice
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 TBSP pistachio nuts, lightly roasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked in boiling water for one minute and drained
- Salt, to taste
- In a heavy, medium sized saucepan, heat butter over low. When it begins to melt, add onion, spices and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add rice and cook, stirring vigorously, until the rice is coated in the butter and spices and smells toasted, about 1 minute.
- Add the broth, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the raisins and pistachios, stir, cover and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the Budget Osso Buco.
Basic nutritional info for the Budget Osso Buco: 400 calories per serving; 18 grams of fat per serving; simply oozing protein and iron; sky-high in vitamin C, A, B6 and no slouch on the thiamin, fiber and phosphorus front either.
Basic nutritional info for the Pistachio and Golden Raisin Pilaf: 250 calories per serving; 5 grams of fat; high in protein, calcium, potassium.
Cost breakdown for the Budget Osso Buco: About $15 (we had a bit of wine, plus oil, butter, olives and dried spices at home, so I’m not counting them), or $1.87 a serving.
Cost breakdown for the Pistachio and Golden Raisin Pilaf: I had all of the ingredients at home, so it was a freebie. If you needed to pick up the nuts, raisins, rice and broth, it would run you about $10.00, or $2.50 a serving.
The verdict: The osso buco was everything I hoped it would be. Indescribably rich, tender, with more layers of flavor than a hip hop dance-a-thon. Stephen: “I’m not hungry. I’m full. Can’t. Stop. Eating. It.” He stared at me helplessly, eyes glazed over. I ignored him and waddled off to the kitchen for seconds. He was concerned about transporting it to work though — unless you have a leak-proof container, this dish ain’t a traveling lady.
Make them again: Absoluciously. Especially the pilaf. Easier than throwing pizza at a wall and much more fun to clean up. The one odd note about the Budget Buco: it makes a ton of sauce. I will have about 2 cups of extra sauce after the meat is polished off. It’ll make a great base for any pasta or soup dish in the future.
In the future: I’ll make more pilaf, less buco for just the two of us. The Budget Buco is fabulous at home, but tough to transport, making it not ideal for our Sunday in the Kitchen project. It would be the perfect potluck or dinner party dish though. For added richness in the pilaf, add more butter. More butter makes everything better. Also, a splash or two of wine to deglaze the pan before putting in the broth is the classical pilaf-prep method; for this dish though, I thought it would overpower the sweetness of the raisins and cut some of the richness of the butter. Your call.