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Cooking with bones will warm yours

Rich, meaty dishes such as osso buco with

Rich, meaty dishes such as osso buco with white beans, above, and oxtail soup warm up the kitchen on the chilly nights of November and December. (Oct. 10, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Neighborhood children may think of candy when they see paper Halloween skeletons tacked to front doors in October. But for neighborhood cooks, osso buco comes to mind.

This is a great time of year to cook with bones. Rich, meaty dishes such as braised short ribs and oxtail soup warm up the kitchen on the chilly nights of November and December.

Consider cooking up a cauldron of short ribs, veal shanks or oxtails for reasons of flavor, economy and ease.

Bones add flavor to braised meat dishes

As bone-in cuts slowly cook in water or wine, bone marrow melts into the braising liquid, giving it exquisite flavor. Collagen, the connective tissue between muscle fibers, breaks down, thickening and enriching a soup or sauce.

Bones are a bargain

Cuts such as short ribs and oxtail cost no more a pound than stew meat, and deliver rich returns in flavor. Veal shanks cost a little more, but compared to other dinner party-worthy items such as filet mignon and rack of lamb, they're a bargain if you want to serve an impressive and meaty dish on a budget.

It's hard to overcook a short rib

One of the reasons that short ribs, oxtails and other bone-in meats are relatively inexpensive is that they contain a lot of connective tissue, which makes them tough unless they are cooked for a long time. You can't just throw a lamb shank on the grill on the spur of the moment. But long cooking time doesn't have to be a negative. Once you've put together your braise, you can forget about it for a few hours. And if you let your short ribs or osso buco go an extra half an hour because you're on the phone or folding laundry, there will be no harm done.

Bones can be braised in advance

Most recipes made with braised bone-in meat taste even better the next day, as flavors meld overnight. Another advantage to refrigerating your dish and reheating it: Excess fat rises to the surface and solidifies, making degreasing a breeze. Just discard the fat, reheat and serve.

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