Even in the days long ago when I ate meat, there was one kind I absolutely would not touch: veal.
It had nothing to do with my Hindu upbringing: I did eat beef. But even when I didn’t think twice about where the food in my saucepan or my plate came from, it seemed reprehensible to eat a baby that had been separated at birth from its mother in order to be carved up for food.
Since that time, I have learned so many more reasons why veal is one of the most inhumane meats. The calves, who in a natural setting would spend 14 months at least with their mothers, are given almost no time to wean before they are dragged away and confined in crates where they can barely move for the short 16 weeks that they will live. The lack of exercise is intended to inhibit muscle development and produce tender meat (have you honestly heard of anything sicker than that?)
The veal industry is also directly related to the dairy industry– one more reason to not consume veal and dairy. Calves die because the milk their moms produce for them is coveted by humans. Male calves are funneled directly into veal production (and are often castrated without painkillers). For those among us who believe you do not have to kill to get milk, that’s something to chew on.
Coming to today’s recipe, I wanted to create a vegan version of what is arguably one of the best known and much glorified veal dishes, Osso Buco. I don’t know any Italian, but that, according to many online sources, translates to marrow bone because the dish is made with veal shanks.
There is, of course, no shank nor bone in this recipe: instead, there is a glorious mix of wild mushrooms with their husky flavors and textures. I used some dry mushrooms in the recipe, partly because they taste amazing and are always in my pantry, and because they give you that flavorful stock when they are rehydrated. There are also a couple of unconventional ingredients here: tamari and cashew paste, but both add body and incredible richness to this indulgent — yet healthy — dish.
In the end, there is just one word to describe this Wild Mushroom “Osso Buco”: stunning. The mushrooms were soft, chewy, and smoky in a sauce that can only be described as rich, satisfying, and silky. The gremolata of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley stirred in at the end adds a bright, fresh pop of flavor, making an already perfect dish even better.
Osso Buco is almost always served with risotto, and I have a few risotto recipes here on the blog, but my favorite this time of year is my silky Butternut Squash Risotto. It pairs quite perfectly with this vegan Wild Mushroom Osso Buco.
- 4 cups of fresh mushrooms I used a mix of cremini and button mushrooms
- 2 cups of dry mushrooms I used a mix of oyster and shiitake
- 1 medium onion minced
- 1 large carrot diced small
- 2 sticks celery diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/4 cup white wine (optional but nice)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or substitute 1 tsp dry
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup cashews soaked with 1/2 cup of water for at least 30 minutes then blended into a smooth paste.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- For the gremolata:
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- Zest of 1 lemon use organic
- 1 clove small of garlic
- Rehydrate the dry mushrooms by soaking them in 2-3 cups of warm or room temperature water for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery. Season with some salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.
- Add the garlic and saute another minute or two.
- Add the mushrooms. Be sure to drain the dry mushrooms but don't throw away the stock from rehydrating them. In fact, I used the stock to make my cashew paste too, instead of water.
- Saute the mushrooms well. Add the wine and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated and the mushrooms look caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste, tamari, thyme and rosemary and add about a cup of the mushroom stock.
- Bring the stew to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Some of the dry mushrooms will remain a little chewy-- you can cook for longer if you want them to soften up. Be sure to add more stock if it dries up.
- Stir the cashew paste into the osso buco, and add salt and pepper if needed. Finish by stirring in the gremolata.
- Serve hot with risotto.