In Which I am Thankful for More Than Collagen

On this day I find myself thankful for the following:

The mythical random Spaniard that decided to apply smoke to paprika.  Seriously, how did I survive for the better part of four decades without Pimenton?

The Yukon Gold Potato.  Buttery flavored, starchy but not overly fluffy, and thanks to America’s wonderful system of food distribution, only about three times as expensive as the more pedestrian Russet.  One of my favorite sound in the world is listening to potatoes roast.  I’m not joking.  Just wedge them up, drizzle with oil, salt and whatever spices (see above), and plunk on a cookie sheet, into a 375 degree oven.

Medium grain rice, with a nod to our widening “ethnic food” distribution channels.  If I want a pilaf, I use basmati for its smell and texture.  Stir fry?  jasmine for how it behaves when it cools.  Risotto and paella have their own specialty grains.  But Mexican Rice demands medium grain.  Not fluffy and individuated, but not creamy like a short grain.  Perfect to spike with tomatoes and chicken broth and spices.  It’s usually in the “Mexican” section of supermarkets.  See my old blog for a specific recipe.

The support of, and inspiration from, a LOT of food bloggers.  I’ve appreciated Katrina’s knowledge and Jessie‘s passion, Esi‘s inexplicable ability to take any three ingredients and turn them into something amazing, or the Cincy Hound’s deep understanding of his craft that’s made me work harder at my own.    Do not read any of these blogs if you haven’t eaten in the past hour.    There are too many that I am missing, and I apologize.  But I’m working on a post to rectify this.

And, then, okay, collagen, I’m REALLY thankful for collagen.

Relevant personal sidenote: I don’t want to self-disclose too much, but it’s been a poorly-kept secret that I’ve been a little down these past few months.   Typical stuff, really.  My job is a stressful one and the change of seasons hit me hard. Please trust me that I’m okay – as someone who is used to ups and downs like this I do have a fairly well defined set of objective measurements – Personal Hygiene tasks at no time become optional and I never once resorted to sleeping on the floor or eating sugar packets.

I mention this in a context of bodily connective tissue, because, like so many times before, I find that cooking an indulgent and somewhat elaborate meal, and sharing it, helps put me back on track.  It is a fortunate bio-evolutionary quirk that my favorite cooking methods are seasonal during the time when I am most likely to need them.   So, collagen.

You know what I’m talking about, right?  For those of you who are not hardcore foodies and, bless your little hearts, buy a rotisserie chicken at the store and then refrigerated it?  Notice the “chicken jello” that sort of forms underneath?  That’s gelatin caused by the melting of the connective tissue collagen, available in various forms in most meats.  Chicken, a bit, pig, certainly, but mostly, in the cow, and specifically, the calf.

I’ll leave it at that.  But it’s good to buy your veal from quality vendors.

I made an osso bucco recently, buying the shanks from Eckerlin’s at Findlay Market at the tail end of a recent get-together there.  I’ve made versions of it before, but always following a recipe.  This time I just wanted to follow my instincts.  This is a braised veal shank, that if you treat the dish with respect, it’s difficult to mess up.

I did mine like this:


Four Veal shanks
1 medium onion
2 carrots
2 ribs celery
4 cloves Garlic
4 roma tomatoes or 2 “regular” tomatoes, diced
1/4 C tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 cups white wine that isn’t Riesling
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup flour
1 T orange zest
1 T fresh parsley
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 250

Dredge the veal shanks in the flour and tap off the excess.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place 1/4C olive oil in your dutch oven and heat to medium.  Sear the shanks until brown on each side, remove and set aside.

Brown the onion, garlic, celery and carrot until translucent.  Stir in the tomato paste and tomato, cook for another five minutes on low heat.  Add the shanks, layer if necessary.  Add the wine and broth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slight simmer, cover, and place in the oven.  Check every 30 minutes until you can twist the bone and have it pull away neatly from the rest of the shank.  About 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Remove the shanks from the juice and set aside.  Reduce the sauce by 1/2 until it thickens.  Return the shanks to the sauce to reheat.

Garnish with parsley and orange zest.  Serve with the saffron risotto that you made. Or not.
Oh, and, again, the collagen?  You will have a LOT of gravy left over.  This is “demi,” I think.  You can reconstitute it to make veal stock, or just use it as a gravy on nearly anything that comes to mind.  YUM.

Okay, I need to plate up make this pumpkin cheesecake and head to Julie’s.  I’ll post a better picture and the recipe later.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

2 thoughts on “In Which I am Thankful for More Than Collagen

  1. Awww, thank you honey. :D One of the reasons I love you (only one) is that you’re one of the few folks I know who will devote the time and energy to discuss collagen like this.


    Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. (And: Snout in the air. Stuff always gets better. 2009 was a nasty year on our end, but I’m hoping things are finally looking up.)


  2. Sweet of you to include me in your short list ! Many thanks for that lift and hopes your resilience keeps you bobbing on top. I have to agree…a little detour to the kitchen and the cookbooks (and the stove) never fail to shake off the blues. And I just melted some browned, delicious turkey gelatin on top of the leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes, singing the praises of collagen. Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving!