Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Gummo's Veal Shank Casserole (A Step by Step Preparation Guide)

(A simple, hearty meal which is either perfect for eating on cold winter evenings or for throwing out - the results aren't in yet)

Two Days Before Cooking: go to the Victoria Market and buy two veal shanks at two dollars each. Forget to ask the butcher to cut them (this is very important - on no account should you remember to ask the butcher to cut the shanks into shorter lengths). While you're at the market, buy a shitload of whatever else is cheap. Take the lot home, pack it into freezer backs and freeze it, except for the veal shanks.

Two hours before cooking: get out of bed, go to the fridge for milk for your morning coffee and notice that the fridge smells of meat. Realise you forgot to freeze the veal shanks. Ask Zeppo Bakunin what vegetables you have in the house, then go to the supermarket and obtain some carrots, celery and turnips. Forget to buy the ground almonds you were going to substitute for coconut (or muesli) in the PMWU recipe for apple crumble.

Final Preparation: Pre-heat oven to halfway between 150 and 200 degrees Centigrade on the temperature dial. Take two of the onions Mr Bakunin told you that you had in the house and slice them finely. Slice three sticks of celery to more or less the same thickness as the onions.

Take the veal shanks out of the fridge and find your favourite casserole dish; the big oval cast-iron one. Pour enough olive oil into the dish to completely cover the bottom. Place on the stove to heat.

Once the oil is hot, attempt to put one of the veal shanks into the casserole dish to brown and discover that it is too long. Take the shank out of the dish and place it on a chopping board. Search the kitchen drawers for some implement capable of cutting the shank in two. Extend your search to the back hallway cupboard where you keep the gardening tools.

Return to the kitchen and remove the casserole from the heat. Open the kitchen window to clear the smoke from the olive oil. Resume your search for some way to cut the veal shanks.

Take one shank, and with a sharp kitchen knife, cut through the meat about halfway along its length, until you expose the bone. Take the old claw hammer you found in the back hallway cupboard and strike the exposed bone several times until it breaks. Repeat with the other shank.

Return the casserole to heat and try to place all four pieces of veal shank in it to brown. Discover that only two will fit in at a time. Brown the first two pieces, remove to a plate then brown the second two. Set these aside on the same plate, which you now discover is too small to accomodate all four pieces comfortably. Carefully arrange the veal shank pieces in a pyramid on the plate.

Put the sliced onion and celery in the casserole dish, taking care not to disturb the pyramid of veal shank pieces on the plate. Saute until the onion is a translucent white and the celery is bright green. Return the veal shank pieces to the dish. Rearrange them with a wooden spoon and a pair of kitchen tongs until they more or less fit in.

Take a large can of chopped tomatoes from the cupboard, consider the space left in the casserole dish and put the can away again. Take out a smaller tin, open it and pour it over the veal shanks. Discover that there was probably enough room to fit in the larger tin after all.

Peel the carrots and turnips from the supermarket and slice them to bachelor thickness; that is, no thinner than one centimeter. Toss them into the vacant space around the shanks. Open a bottle of pub trivia quiz second prize red, pour one glass and add it to the casserole. Check the remaining empty space in the casserole dish and the remaining level in the wine bottle, and add as much wine as you are prepared to forego drinking.

Raise the heat under the casserole dish until the liquid starts to simmer. Put the lid on the casserole dish. Remove the lid and, with kitchen tongs and a wooden spoon, rearrange the contents until the lid will fit snugly on the rim of the dish without too much forcing. Remove the lid again, and add a generous pinch of ground black pepper and a bay leaf. Place the casserole in the oven and go to your computer. Write up the preparation so far.

After Writing the Final Preparation: Remove the casserole dish from the oven, and taste the contents. If fit for human consumption, remove the bones and serve with potatoes boiled in their jackets, green beans and bread.

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