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Osso Buco with Saffron Rice and Warm Fiddlehead Salad

You are never going to believe this, but it was still chilly, rainy and cold this past weekend in Brooklyn! I know. April didn't get the memo yet that she's supposed to be warming up, sunny and lining the street markets with herbs and flowers to plant.

Alright, then. I scratched my Friday menu of lemony shrimp with herbs and peas for a dinner that would fit the setting outside. On my way home I picked up what I would need in order to make osso buco, a northern Italian classic, along with a few extras. This would be a great choice and provide some amazing raviolis later in the week as well.

Friday nights are my favorite night of the week. The daily grind is finally over and there's a whole weekend stretched in front of me. I can get home, change, and enjoy a few hours in the kitchen. No tv, no hurrying through dinner, just some fresh music and conversation while our little nuggetfaced puppy bops about the house.

I'm always excited to cook something Frank hasn't eaten before, and osso buco surprisingly was one of those dishes. So he was especially interested in what was going on. (I also put out a treat of stracciatella on the cheese board - spirits were high.) I was planning on the veal to be bedded on the traditional risotto alla milanese, accompanied by a bright spring salad. Spring was going to be on the dinner table, damnit! This is how it all went once I had my knives and goodies ready.

I sweat the carrot, celery and shallot in the Dutch oven, and then seared the seasoned veal shanks until crusted in deliciousness. Removing the shanks to rest, I added crushed tomato*, chicken stock and a little bit of red wine. Because I can never seem to remember Marsala wine when grocery shopping, I just poured from the open magnum (don't judge) of pino noir. A little more salt and pepper, some fresh thyme and ramps (ramps!!) and that pot was good to simmer for awhile with the shanks back in to braise.

I started on what was supposed to be risotto. Notice that I called it rice in the title. This is my situation with risotto - I love it! Doesn't matter what kind, it could be plain, lobster, mushroom, cheese, the list goes on. But when I am the one making it, I only love it about 20 percent of the time, because that's the barometer of how often I'm able to cook it properly. I don't know what my problem is. I toast the arborio in butter, then gradually add the stock or wine, a little extra butter at the end, usually some Parmigiano too. This time I had a few threads of saffron in there to complete this version. This also happened to be one of 80 percent of the time, where somehow I pay close attention to what is happening underneath the pan's lid and the creamy risotto mysteriously turns into a drier version of rice. Boo.

Okay, so this was kind of coming together and I had added a few porcini mushrooms into the osso buco pot. I decided to take my spring salad for a spin towards a warmer plate, as fiddlehead ferns should be at least slightly less than raw. So I did just that, and on a whim added sliced baby red onion, English peas still podded, salt and pepper. Onto a plate, I cracked open the pea pods, drizzled with red wine vinegar and lemon and plated the rest of the meal.

Hold up! I almost forgot to mention the gremolata. My pestle and mortar made a countertop appearance for a start-studded veal dressing. I chopped up parsley and garlic, added some lemon and orange zest, seasoned, and ground it all together. It was nuts! The parsley was almost neon in color, and even stayed that gorgeous shade for a few days in the fridge.

Frank thought everything in front of him was great, although he never pokes out marrow from bones. Weird. I did, because I'm no fool, and it gave the meal a rich fatty flavor. The porcinis were a nice addition to the sauce and the gremolata really brightened it up. Salad was fun - I mean, who doesn't enjoy a swirly, green plant only available for a few weeks of the year? The non-risotto was just that, but saffron is something that makes anyone smile.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our Friday night in, as we always do, and there was enough leftover to be shredded and turned into raviolis for dinner on Monday. I love an easy weeknight dinner!

*Tomato is not part of the most traditional version of osso buco, but many recipes do include it.

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