Why Slow Pot
The slow pot cooking does not get enough recognition. It is coming back slowly into a fashion, however not long ago it was a preferred method of cooking. It helped to use the cheaper, harder meat offcuts and turn them into rich, full of flavour and warming meals. It worked especially well with old cast iron stoves, which retained heat well - keeping the house warm while cooking family meals.
Nowadays, we can pop a cast iron dish into an oven and after a few hours pull out a ready dinner for the entire family. Apart from preparing meat or scrubbing a few veggies, you can happily spend those few hours on other things that need your attention and not on a pot watch.
Cast iron pots produce wonderful autumn and winter stews and are made for those on the bone meats, like Osso Bucco. Some meats could be tenderised by marinating, but on the bone pieces really do not require such an extra attention.
Remember to take the meat out of a fridge for an hour beforehand to warm it up to a room temperature. While gathering all cooking ingredients, turn on an oven, gas mark 3 or 4 or 160 C to 170 C, and pop your cast iron dish in to get it ready for cooking. The reason behind it is simple, once you put all ingredients into a warm pot, they start cooking straightaway and you can judge cooking time better.
In the meantime, prepare chosen veggies. Slice onions lengthwise, crush garlic, but leave skin on - it will give its flavours, but you can discard it before serving. Scrub potatoes’ skins well, do the same with fresh carrots. Unless carrot are quite big, I keep them whole and I cut parsnips lengthwise. I usually peel celeriac and swede roughly and chop it into bigger cubes. Pumpkin or squash works here as well, but you might want to add it later in cooking, as they might disintegrate if cooked for too long. Once veggies are prepared, move onto the meat.
Osso Bucco Dossier
Osso Bucco is a cluster of meat on the bone, comes off the lower part of an animal leg. Traditionally in Italy it would be a veal shank but pork seems to be easier to get hands on. Before filling a pot, you need to brown shanks. Rub meat with a bit of Guerande coarse sea salt and crushed black pepper. Keep rest of the salt for later. Heat the pan with a bit of ghee or goose fat and brown it slightly on both sides. This move not only gives meat more taste, it locks in the juices and flavours and prevents them from running away into a sauce.
Time to Start Cooking
Now it is time to take the heated iron cast pot out of the oven. Use gloves, it is going to be very hot! Layer onions, garlic, fresh herbs and an optional chilli pepper on the bottom, then scatter vegetables and finally transfer browned meat pieces with any liquids from the frying pan. Sprinkle the rest of Guerande coarse sea salt and pop the lid back on and put the pot into the oven. Give it about 2 or 3 hours.
About Dinner Time
The dish is ready when meat is tender and comes off the bone easily. Transfer meat, veggies and potatoes onto plates. You should have achieved some reduced sauce in the pot so put it over the dish and garnish with fresh parsley. At the end of the dinner, do not forget a delicious marrow in the bone, it is a special favourite of my carnivorous son too!
A piece of free range pork Osso Bucco per person
A good bunch of root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, celeriac or swede
Couple medium size potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
Two small onions, sliced lenghthwise
Few cloves of garlic, crushed, skin on
A bunch of fresh herbs like oregano, marjoram, thyme, or rosemary
Crushed black pepper and/or whole chilli pepper
2 tea spoons of coarse Grey Sea Salt from Guerande