[Lindsey Bartosh]

I have a tendency to not want to eat my own cooking. It is especially bad with desserts like cookies, sandwiches (yes, sadly, even grilled cheese), and salads. There’s something about spending an ample amount of time with the ingredients before the meal that makes them less appealing when it comes time to actually eat them.

By the time the meal hits the table, I tend to be bored of the smells, exhausted by the textures, and uninterested in the flavors. I always sit down with everyone else and enjoy dinner, but by then I’m more interested in the conversations we have than the meal itself. For me, the meal is as good as over before it starts.

While that tends to be the case with a lot of my own cooking, there are some exceptions where I get as impatient to eat as everyone else. One such meal is “Osso Bucco.”  

Osso Bucco is Italian and translates into English as “bone with a hole.” Shanks, which are crosscuts of bone and meat from between the knee and ankle of an animal, are usually regarded as throw-away parts. The meat is tough and difficult to remove in any manner that would result in a usable product. 

With an Osso Bucco, the shanks are braised in a simple broth, a little wine, and some vegetables. During the braising process, the bone marrow and ligaments flavor the broth, making it silky and savory, and the meat becomes so tender it falls off the bone. It is a very simple process any at-home chef can achieve and dish out award-worthy results. 

I think I can’t wait for the Osso Bucco to come out of the oven because I haven’t chopped, mixed, folded, taste-tested, adjusted, and sweated over the meal. I place everything in a Dutch oven and just like the other diners, sit back and wait. The aromas slowly sneaking out of the oven haven’t been dancing in my nose for hours—I grow hungry with anticipation like everyone else.

This Osso Bucco recipe uses a bear shank, but the dish can be prepared with a variety of proteins. Elk, deer, moose, and pronghorn would all be delicious substitutions. This meal is a delightful way to use every part of an animal you harvest and also the perfect meal to introduce hesitant wild game diners to a new experience. 

Osso Bucco and Cheesy Polenta


  • 2-3 pound bear shank (also a great use for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, or other wild game shank)
  • 1 cup pancetta
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (or whatever other stock you have on hand)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 small piece mace
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper


Bear Shank Osso Bucco

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. 
  2. In a dutch oven, cook the pancetta over medium heat for about five minutes. Remove pancetta but leave fats behind for cooking the rest of the dish.
  3. Lightly coat the bear shank in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Brown in the pancetta fat for five minutes per side.
  4. Remove the browned bear shank and add diced onion to the dutch oven. Cook for five minutes, until onion is soft and translucent. Added diced carrots, minced shallot, and celery to the pot and cook additional five minutes.
  5. Deglaze the dutch oven with the white wine, let simmer for a few minutes to cook some of the alcohol off. Scrape browned pieces off the bottom of the pot to make sure you get all that flavorful goodness!
  6. Add the cup of vegetable stock and the tomatoes. Season liquid with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Nestle the bear shank back into the cooking liquid.
  7. Prepare your spice bouquet in a small square of cheesecloth. Add the thyme sprigs, rosemary branch, mace piece, bay leaves, star anise, and cloves. Tie with cooking twine and drop in the braising liquid.
  8. Cover the pot and place in the oven at 325 degrees. Cook for three hours, until the bear shank is tender and falling apart.

Cheesy Polenta

  1. Bring three cups of water and a teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Whisk in the cup of polenta. Stir until the polenta starts to swell and fill the pan.
  3. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for up to thirty minutes. Stir often to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom. If the polenta starts to seem to dry, add more liquid.
  4. Add the cup of gruyere and stir until fully incorporated.
  5. To plate, add a scoop of polenta to a plate, top with shredded bear shank and drench in braising liquid. Garnish with fresh parsley and pancetta and enjoy!

Lindsey Bartosh, an eighth-generation Moab girl, loves hiking, hunting, fishing, cooking, writing, photography and working on her website www.huntingandcooking.com.