When my local butcher, Main Street Meats, called me up and asked if I wanted to create something delicious together for the launch of their new cooking blog, of course I said yes. One of the driving forces behind this blog is a the belief that sustainable, locally sourced food is good for both body, community, and soul. Since a hog is at the heart of southern cuisine (albeit with a garland of vibrant produce around its neck), I wanted to not just cook pork, but to cook a cheap cut that isn’t familiar to a lot of people: pork osso buco. Which is fancy for pork shank. I’m not one who’s body or spiritual path precludes me from eating meat, but I do make it a habit to only cook meat that was sustainably raised, preferably locally. It’s clean, fresh, and flavorful, and animals that are provided with and allowed a diverse diet contain far more nutrients than their ill-starred factory farmed relatives. Cooking & eating is a spiritual enterprise; it’s that moment in which we take from earth the energy, the life force, we need to live, love, and create. That might sound flaky, I get that. But it’s the literal truth. As such I aim to do both with mindfulness, reverence, and gratitude whenever possible. I’m not in a brilliantly evolved head space every time I sit down to eat, but at the very least, I thank the beings that gave their force for mine.
I wanted a closer look at the process. It’s my opinion that, since I’m an omnivore, I owe the animals I eat an acknowledgment that they were in fact fauna that roamed the earth. It’s easy to disconnect the vacuum packed parcels from the beasts, and for me, it’s a disservice to try to forget the life they led. If I’m going to eat meat, I’m going to acknowledge the full spectrum of that process. So early in the morning I met Moby, Amy, and Milton at the shop and we watched Milton break down half a hog from Sequatchie Cove Farm. It was art, and I’m grateful that Chattanooga is blessed with people who care enough about the food we eat here to put in the time, energy, and talent to do it right.
As a matter of fact, Main Street Meats is the only butcher shop we have here in Chattanooga, TN. Before it’s inception, we were butcherless and you could only find good meat at the markets a few times a week. Now all you have to do is pay them a visit to get local meat for your family any day of the week. Beside that they’ve got housemade sausages, bacon, local cheeses, house made dishes like their famous Chicken Pot Pie (lard crust, y’all), and so much other goodness (including nice leaf lard for baking pastries!) So, after getting a first hand look at the process, Moby & Amy went with me to the farmer’s market to get some produce to cook along with it, and then they joined me in my kitchen to cook up a spring braise.
Yes, a spring braise. Eating from the butcher shop means branching out into cuts that might not be as familiar as ye olde filet, ribeye, and strip. But they’re often more affordable and flavorful. So, we wanted to show that the cuts of meat that benefit from low and slow (and largely hands off!) cooking aren’t just for the cooler months. And paired with grassy fennel, bright citrus, a splash of dry white wine, and meltingly tender leeks, that’s exactly what we achieved. You can find the recipe along with the sides we served it with, cheese polenta & spicy bitter greens on their brand new blog! They’ll be updating it with recipes for the various cuts of sustainably raised meats they carry, tutorials, and information on upcoming workshops like the one tomorrow, Sausage 101: sausage making & tasting with a beer pairing (with craft beers graciously provided by The Flying Squirrel). It’s all sold out, and I’m so excited about it and about their future endeavors. If you missed out, you can follow them on instagram and twitter to remain abreast of upcoming events and posts.
So, if you’re local and you haven’t stopped by Main Street Meats, do. It’s the best source of meat in town, and once you stop in, you’ll be there every week. There are really no words for how much it’s worth making an extra stop. I know we’re all busy, and it’s tempting to want to do a one stop shop, but if we embrace the older way and support our local butcher, we’ll be rewarded. Just like we were when we took our first bite of this braise. You won’t look back.
fennel, leek, & orange pork osso buco
- 2 T olive oil (or lard)
- 2 3” pork shanks, liberally seasoned w/ salt & pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 leek diced
- 1 small carrot peeled & diced
- 1/2 small yellow onion diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock (should come 2/3 the way up the sides of the shanks)
- 1 small fennel bulb, roughly chopped (about 1/2” chunks)
- 1 large leek, quartered length wise (to be added halfway through cooking)
- supremes of half an orange (see this video on how to: zest & supreme an orange)
- 2 T. fresh oregano
- salt & pepper (smoked salt if you got it)
- After the vegetables have been cut according to the specifications in the ingredients list, heat one tablespoon of oil or lard in a heavy bottom oven safe pot over medium-high heat until shimmering and generously salt & pepper the pork shanks.
- Brown the shanks in the fat, 2-3 minutes per side. Don't peek before flipping and allow a nice brown crust to form. Remove the shanks from the pot and set aside on a plate.
- Heat the oven to 250 F. Add up to an additional tablespoon of fat to the pot if needed, reduce the heat to medium low, and add the onion, carrot, garlic, diced leek, oregano, and a three finger pinch of salt & a few healthy cracks of black pepper. Sauté until slightly browned.
- Add the stock, white wine, and orange supremes to your pot and return the pork shanks along with it. The liquid should only come about halfway up the osso buco- you don’t want to drown it or it will lose its nice brown crust you just worked so hard to achieve! Bring the liquid almost to a simmer. Don't let it boil; tough meat is a bummer.
- Once it comes to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil and place on the middle rack in the oven. Cook at 250° 2.5-3 hrs, until it’s almost falling off the bone (should be tender & juicy but still hold together). Halfway through, at about the 1.5 hour mark, add in the halved leeks.
- We served it over polenta and greens with the a fennel orange gremolata (recipe below).