Valentine's Day Dinner

For dinner on Valentine's Day, I wanted to make something special. In my mind, the quintessential romantic meal of spaghetti and meatballs had been done... and done again. Filet mignon or another high-end cut of meat is nice, but I kind of wanted to make something new and different (for us). We had made lamb a couple of times recently, so that was out. I contemplated duck, but I didn't want to chance messing it up. I've never made duck before, and I find that duck I order at restaurants is hit or miss.

After almost a month of searching through recipes and tossing around ideas, I chose osso buco. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right osso buco recipe. There are a number of them out there, but none of the images that went with the recipes or the ingredients they included seemed like what I was looking for. I wanted a tomato-y osso buco, and many that I saw looked like they were in a brown sauce. Eventually, I turned to one of my new favorite cookbooks, Art of the Slow Cooker, and found the perfect recipe there: Osso Buco Milanese.

Using a slow cooker was a good idea too because it meant I didn't have to spend the whole day cooking, but we could still enjoy an elegant meal.

We had to go to two different Whole Foods stores to find osso buco (veal shanks). It's been happening lately that when I've had a particular recipe in mind, Whole Foods is out of that particular meat or fish; such was the case this time. The butcher at my regular Whole Foods informed us he was out of the veal shanks but would be getting some in on Monday. That didn't help much with plans for dinner Saturday night, so we drove to another Whole Foods where the butcher knew we would find what we were looking for. (I nearly substituted beef shanks.)

The next butcher was kind enough to give me some twine, so I could tie the shanks as directed in the recipe. This keeps the meat attached to the bone during the slow cooking process.

I tied one with a cute little bow...

...and my boyfriend tied and knotted the rest.

We dredged the shanks in some flour seasoned with salt and pepper and browned both sides in a skillet of oil warmed over medium-high heat. Then we set them in the slow cooker.

I sliced leeks and celery and added these to the warm skillet and then tossed in some minced garlic and the flour that was left from dredging the veal shanks. Then I added some white bordeaux, thyme, basil, chicken broth, a bay leaf, and diced tomatoes. The mixture simmered and thickened, and then I poured it over the veal and left the slow cooker to its work.

After about 5 to 6 hours on low and 1 hour on high, the veal was tender and ready to be removed from the crockpot. I scooped out the shanks and put them to the side and then added a mixture of lemon zest, minced garlic, and chopped parsley to the sauce in the crockpot.

We plated the shanks over some tagliatelle and sprinkled more of the lemon mixture on top for garnish.

Then we sat down at our beautifully decorated Valentine's table and had a delicious dinner. The osso buco had the tomato flavor we were looking for -- though we both agreed that maybe adding tomato sauce would have given us more of the texture we wanted -- and the lemon, garlic, and parsley gave it a zingy, fresh taste.

For the complete recipe, pick up a copy of Art of the Slow Cooker!