Ossobuco di tacchino (Turkey Ossobuco)

Franksecondi piatti23 Comments

Ossobuco di tacchino (Turkey Ossobuco)

Let’s talk turkey, shall we?

For most Americans, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without roast turkey. And for many others around the world, the same goes for Christmas. A splendid roast bird does make for a striking centerpiece for our dinner tables. But if we’re honest, how many of us really enjoy it? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason so many people say the best part of Thanksgiving dinner are the sides…

Here’s the honest truth: turkey just isn’t the most flavorful of meats, with an unfortunate tendency to dry out when roasted. So in our quest to turn a whole roast turkey into something truly worth eating, we resort to brining it, slipping butter and flavorings under its skin, covering it with bacon, then hovering over it and basting it constantly as it roasts in the oven for endless hours… The stratagems are virtually endless and, if we’re being frank, not always worth the effort.

Italians have another way to approach this mild flavored meat. Turkey is popular in Italy, but you’ll rarely see a whole roasted bird on an Italian table. Italian dishes make a virtue out of a vice and use turkey as a foil for delicious flavorings and sauces, often as a substitute for another more expensive mild flavored meat, namely veal. Turkey scallopine, for example, is a wildly popular dish.

Also very popular is this week’s dish: ossobuco di tacchino, or Turkey Ossobuco, a popular riff on the classic ossobuco alla milanese. You make it in much the same way you would the classic veal ossobuco. After an initial browning, the turkey is sautéed together with a classic Italian soffritto, then bathed in wine, then braised in broth until tender, and then—as a final flourish—sprinkled with a zesty gremolata—a mince of lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Absolutely delicious!

While the recipe involves a few steps—the typical ones for any Italian braise—it’s very easy to prepare. And rather than hours of roasting you’ll need for a whole bird, turkey ossobuco can be whipped up in a little over an hour.

Ossobuco di tacchino makes for an especially attractive alternative to the usual whole roasted turkey, whether at Thanksgiving or Christmas, if you have a small group for which a whole bird would be too much. But since it’s so easy to make, it’s also a great meal anytime you feel like something toothsome and warming.

Ossobuco di tacchino is lovely served as you would a classic veal ossobuco with risotto alla milanese. But I think it’s particularly luscious with lots of buttery mashed potatoes, which fits nicely into a Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 2-3 turkey drumsticks, cut into ossobuchi (see Notes)
  • White flour, q.b.
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely minced
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes, either fresh or canned, diced
  • White wine
  • 250ml (1 cup) chicken or turkey broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the gremolata:

  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • The zest of one lemon

Directions

Lightly dust your ossobuchi with flour and sauté them in vegetable oil in a sauté pan or braiser large enough to hold them all in one layer. Turn the pieces from time to time until they are nice and golden brown on all sides. Remove them and set aside.

Add a nob of butter to the pan, then add the minced onion, carrot and celery. Let the minced veg sauté gently until soft.

Now return the ossobuchi to the pan and give them a turn in the aromatic vegetables. Let everything sauté gently together for a few minutes, turning the ossobuchi from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

Pour in a good glug of white wine to the skillet and let simmer, continuing to turn the turkey pieces from time to time, until the wine has evaporated.

Add the broth and tomato to the skillet, along with the bay leaf, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and let braise for a good 45-60 minutes, or until the turkey is tender.

While the turkey is braising, make your gremolata by mincing together the parley, garlic and lemon zest into a fine paste.

When your ossobuchi are done, add half the gremolata to the skillet, together with a ladleful of water or broth if the sauce has reduced too much. Let simmer uncovered until you have a nice sauce, which should be abundant but thick and very flavorful. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve your ossobuchi napped with the sauce and sprinkled with the remaining gremolata.

Ossobuco di tacchino (Turkey Ossobuco)

Notes

In Italy, ossobuco di tacchino is an easy and relatively quick everyday dish, since you can purchase packaged turkey ossobuco in the supermarket in the same way you can buy cut up chickens here. The actual cooking is a piece of cake.

The story is different, of course, outside Italy. If you’re on good terms with your local butcher—and these days count yourself lucky if you have a butcher nearby—then they should be able to do the job for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to do your own butchering. Just another example of the many challenges of recreating authentic Italian dishes outside Italy…

Prepping Your Own Turkey Ossobuchi

But even if you don’t know a cooperative butcher, don’t let that stop you. Provided you have a meat cleaver or a butcher’s bone saw, the job is done in just a few minutes. (Poultry shears, unfortunately, aren’t up to cutting a turkey bone, which is quite a bit harder than chicken bone. Trust me, I’ve tried.)

To make your own ossobuchi, slice the drumsticks horizontally into slices about 3-5cm (1-1.5 in) thick. A sharp knife will do fine to cut through the skin and flesh, but when you get the bone, switch to a meat cleaver or butcher’s saw. The drumstick that weighed a bit over 500g/1 lb I used here rendered two ossobuchi each, as pictured below. That should be enough for one person, or even two depending on appetites and what else you’re serving.

Once sliced, trim off any stray bits of bone or sinew from your ossobuchi. You won’t be using the short ends of the drumsticks; reserve them for making broth.

Now if you don’t feel like cutting up the turkey drumsticks, this recipe will also work with whole drumsticks. The same goes if you find turkey legs, which include both the drumstick and the thigh. They will need more braising time, of course—more like 2 hours for the drumsticks and up to 3 hours for a whole leg. And then you’ll need to slice them up for serving. It’s definitely a viable option, but personally, I think it’s worth the slight extra trouble to make your own ossobuchi upfront.

Variations

As explained in our post on veal ossobuco, there are a many subtle and not so subtle variations on the original recipe. In fact, this recipe itself includes a number of these variations, even leaving aside the substitution of turkey for veal. None of these compromise the “authenticity” of the dish, in my view, but they are all aimed at maximizing flavor.

For one, here I’m suggesting to brown the turkey pieces before adding the aromatic vegetables. The original recipe follows the usual Italian practice of starting with the soffritto, as explained in our recent post on spezzatino di maiale e zucca (Pork and Pumpkin Stew). I’ve switched the usual sequence to allow for a good sear on the turkey over higher heat, to let that good old Maillard reaction work its magic on this mild meat for a needed extra layer of flavor.

I’m also recommending you do the initial browning in vegetable oil, rather than the traditional butter, which allows for a higher temperature and therefore a better sear. Here, the butter gets added in the next step when you add the soffritto.

I also changed up the soffritto. The original ossobuco starts with onion only, while here I’m suggesting the ‘holy trinity’ of onion, carrot and celery, as do some more modern takes on veal ossobuco. Again, I think the turkey needs a little extra help in the flavor department, but feel free to go the onion only route if you’re a purist.

I’ve also opted to add a bit of tomato to the braising liquid. Not too much, as you will have seen. Just tomato or two, enough to add another subtle layer of flavor and to lightly color the sauce. You can also add a dab of tomato paste which does the same job. Tomato—either just a bit or a whole lot—is a common variation for veal ossobuco as well, but the original recipe is completely “in bianco”, as the Italians say.

And finally, I’ve gone the route of adding broth to the braise to produce an abundant sauce. In old school ossobuco recipes, you just add the wine and braise the veal in minimal liquid, which you top up as needed during the braise, just enough to keep things moist. But for this recipe I wanted ample “gravy” for my mashed potatoes.

Speaking of which, the sauce can also be thickened or thinned out as you prefer. For this post, I napped my turkey ossobuco with a rather thick sauce which covered them completely as pictured. But when I served the dish that evening for dinner, I thinned out the sauce quite a bit. Both variations are nice, although I actually rather prefer a thinner sauce than what you see pictured here. And that would be the preference, I reckon, for most Italians. But again let your own preferences be your guide.

Ossobuco di tacchino

Turkey Ossobuco, a riff on the classic veal ossobuco made with turkey drumsticks
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: braised

Ingredients

  • 2-3 turkey drumsticks cut crosswise into ossobuchi 
  • White flour
  • 1 small onion finely minced
  • 1 small carrot peeled and minced
  • 1 stalk celery finely minced
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes either fresh or canned, diced
  • White wine
  • 250ml 1 cup chicken or turkey broth, preferably homemade 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the gremolata:

  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1-2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 lemon zest only

Instructions

  • Lightly dust your ossobuchi with flour and sauté them in vegetable oil in a sauté pan or braiser large enough to hold them all in one layer. Turn the pieces from time to time until they are nice and golden brown on all sides. Remove them and set aside. 
  • Add a nob of butter to the pan, then add the minced onion, carrot and celery. Let the minced veg sauté gently until soft. 
  • Now return the ossobuchi to the pan and give them a turn in tharomatic vegetables. Let everything sauté gently together for a few minutes, turning the ossobuchi from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. 
  • Pour in a good glug of white wine to the skillet and let simmer, continuing to turn the turkey pieces from time to time, until the wine has evaporated. 
  • Add the broth and tomato to the pan, along with the bay leaf, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and let braise for a good 45-60 minutes, or until the turkey is tender. 
  • While the turkey is braising, make your gremolata by mincing together the parley, garlic and lemon zest into a fine paste. 
  • When your ossobuchi are done, add half the gremolata to the skillet, together with a ladleful of water or broth if the sauce has reduced too much. Let simmer uncovered until you have a nice sauce, which should be abundant but thick and very flavorful. Taste and adjust for seasoning. 
  • Serve your ossobuchi napped with the sauce and sprinkled with the remaining gremolata

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23 Comments on “Ossobuco di tacchino (Turkey Ossobuco)”

  1. I am with you on this one, I hate a boring roast turkey 😂
    Now this dish definitely made my eyes sparkle in joy, I love osso bucco, in fact its one of my favourite dishes but using turkey makes sense, it just gives that boring bird a really nice sauce to complement it. Yum

  2. Dear Frank: It gives me so much pleasure to read your recipes. They’re so authentic! My parents came from Abruzzi & your site has provided me with recipes I thought I’d never find.
    Regarding turkey osso buco; can’t wait to try. So fed up attempting to roast a moist bird! Anyway, my favorite osso buco recipe is Marcella Hazan’s osso buco in bianco; lemony, simple & straight forward; always a hit. Might try it with turkey. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I missed where to add the tomatoes in your recipe. I’d assume they would be added to the soffritto or soon thereafter. Let me know.

    1. My bad, Roberto! Thanks for the heads up. I’ll correct the recipe. You can actually add the tomato at different points: to the soffritto once the aromatic vegetables are soft and before the turkey, or else after adding the turkey, or after the wine has evaporated, along with the broth. The differences are pretty subtle.

  3. Frank,
    Grazie mille per questa idea, per questa ricetta. With just 2 of us Ibwas going to do a spatchcock chicken. BUT, I got your email on Saturday and changed my mind. I used 2 whole drumsticks but they turned out great. Again, grazie mille.

  4. I’ve always thought of turkey tasting gamey, so this recipe would definitely be preferred to the traditional roast. I had no idea it is a popular meat in Italy!

  5. You make an excellent point about roasted turkey, Frank. We gave that up several years ago in favor of fried turkey – once you make the switch, you never go back! But now I’m kinda thinking I just want to pick up some drumsticks to make this recipe. This truly is comfort food at its best! Thanks for sharing this fun recipe. Hope you and the family have a great Thanksgiving holiday, my friend!

  6. I love that photo! I had no idea turkey is popular in Italy. In France, they seem to hate it! At least that’s what my mother said when she refused to make turkey for thanksgiving even though she’s lived in the US since 1954! But I also think I read that somewhere. Anyway, beautiful recipe.

    1. Thanks! Interesting to hear about your mom’s aversion to turkey. I did a little Googling on French websites and turkey is mentioned as a Xmas bird, although it seems goose and capon are more popular. Anyway, it’s too bad about your mom. You would’ve thought she’d make an exception once a year.. what did you eat instead?

  7. *huge smile* All my life osso buco Has been attached’ to my name and cooking . . . but with the now ill regarded milk veal, not turkey ! Actually in Australia no one much seems to talk of the latter – we have no Thanksgiving and other proteins attract more at Yule. Turkey has of late become a weight-losing meat . . . and is certainly available. So, not cooking at the moment but shall put this in the pile for New Year . . . thanks !

    1. So you’re famous for your ossobuco? Complimenti, as the Italians say! Anyway, I think this dish is worth trying out, if not at Xmas then some other time when you’re in the mood for a lighter taken on ossobuco. By the way, I did some online Googling about Australian Christmas dishes. Fascinating how very different they are from ours. But then again, falling in your summer, it shouldn’t be too surprising.

  8. What an inspiration! I loved turkey as a child, but have completely outgrown it, prefering goose instead. However, turky ossobuco could make me change my mind and turkey legs are quite cheap!

    1. I think goose is tastier, too. But it costs a bomb over here. And since it’s very unusual, many don’t care for it, sadly. Anyway, I do think this sort of recipe might make you give turkey another try.

  9. I am so glad you wrote this because I feel terrible when I say to people that I don’t like turkey at all. It is boring, usually dry, makes me sleepy and so on. The sleep part doesn’t bother me — but flavorless? This recipe is the bomb, and I know I will love turkey this way. I do wonder if I could butcher these myself… two years ago I tried to spatchcock a turkey only to find it wouldn’t fit in my roasting pan. (Thank you, Ms. Nosrat.) I then had to cut it in two. It looked like a murder scene. I had every cleaver and saw I own on the counter and it was a blood bath! Thanks for this recipe, Frank. Before I get out my saws, I will talk to the butcher. 🙂

    1. Oh dear, sounds like trouble, lol! But no worries, if your butcher won’t/can’t do it, this is really much easier than spatchcocking a whole bird.

  10. Woah, this is one of the coolest dishes I’ve seen in quite some time. I thought I had my Christmas menu all planned, but you’re really making me rethinking it now!

    1. Ha! I didn’t mean to mess up your holiday plans… but this is definitely worth a try, if not at Christmas, then some other time. 😉

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