Venison Osso Buco with Polenta Recipe
A dish originating from Milan, Italy, osso buco has become a hot dinner selection from restaurant menus; here's how to make your own with venison
Venison osso buco combines many flavors and deer shanks into one very delicious dish. (Jenny Nguyen photo)
Osso buco is a popular choice for restaurant goers looking for something different. Cross-cut, bone-in slices of veal shank are slowly braised with white wine, meat broth, aromatic vegetables and herbs.
I’ve made variations of this dish over the years with both beef and venison, and every time, they’ve been memorable meals for all around the dinner table. 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 tastes luxurious and takes only 15 minutes to make!
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 on beef shanks, the bone marrow also is an added treat; an unctuous, rich-flavored delicacy sadly thrown away by most hunters. This recipe truly allows this part of the deer to shine.
The satisfaction in enjoying fork-tender venison served in a deeply layered, savory sauce can’t be beat. I love osso buco because it’s simple but offers big, hearty flavors in an elegant, impressive meal. Give venison osso buco a try; I promise you it won’t be the last time you make this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Venison Osso Buco
- 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 to 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 to 3 cups of chicken broth
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Grated zest of 2 lemons, for garnish
- 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.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 1 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
2. In a cast-iron 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 necessary. Transfer browned venison to a plate and set aside. Then reduce heat to medium. If necessary, carefully discard black-burnt bits of leftover flour in the bottom of the pan, but leave the browned bits; that’s the good stuff.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 2 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
3. Add more oil to pan if needed. Add onion, carrot, celery, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until onions turn translucent, stirring often. Next, add smashed cloves of garlic, tomato paste and herbs and sauté for 1 minute.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 3 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
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 with aluminum foil and then place the lid on top; this ensures a tight fit. 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. You shouldn’t lose much liquid throughout cooking process if your Dutch oven lid is tight, but if you do, add more broth.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 4 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
- 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
1. About 20 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.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 5 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
2. 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 pan sauce through a fine mesh strainer, mashing the vegetables down to squeeze as much sauce out as possible. Discard solids and taste sauce for seasoning.
Venison osso buco recipe, step 6 (Jenny Nguyen photo)
3. 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.