March 18, 2008

Beef Shanks

Meat is a blessing, in my not-so humble opinion, and as such, I take great pains to learn how to utilize every cut. It's part of my personal philosophy on the usage of meat. However, this knowledge comes especially in handy when there's a sale, with meat prices such as they are. I was very pleased the other day to find a sale on beef shanks. The shank is the portion of meat that comes from the legs of the animal. They are round cuts, with a marrow bone, very easy to identify. Being a leg-portion, and therefore well-used muscle, the shanks need a long, moist-cooking process to tenderize and become palatable. When they're done, though, oh heaven! Shank meat is amazingly delicious, rich and flavorful, and the opposite of dry and stringy.

A few tips on preparing shanks. I always wash and dry my meat before use, I think that's especially important for a shanks since there might be bone dust on them.

Then salt and pepper the meat well, and then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Next, give them a really good browning and remove them from the pan.

What I like to do next is have ready a rough chopped mirepoix, that is, carrots, celery and onion. Alot of times, I like to make my shanks in a sort of osso bucco style, however I don't feel required to stick to any one recipe, and I can used the finished meat in a variety of ways, however back to the action.

Rough-cut Mirepoix:carrots, celery and onion ready for the pan

After I remove the meat from the pan I brown the veggies. I like to get a really good caramelization on the veggies, and then add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste and get that cooking.

Ready for the tomato paste

Then deglaze the pan with red wine, add the beef shanks back to the pan and bring up to about half-way up the shanks with water or beef stock, and bring up to a simmer. Put a lid on it and pop it into the over at 350* for and 1.5-2 hours, even longer, depending on how tough the beef was to begin with. Flip the meat over every 30-45 minutes so you can see how it's coming along, and so each side gets equal gravy opportunity.

This is pretty much a standard osso bucco recipe, with the exception that veal is the meat most often used for that dish. Served with a gremolata, you'd be on your way to osso bucco heaven.

Beef shanks, however, can be eaten in a few different ways. Serve with potatoes, rice, noodles or bread, or use as a base for other recipes like beef stew or chili, or make into an interesting stroganoff. The veggies can be left whole or pureed with the gravy. No matter what you decide to do with it, it will be delicious. Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished product, but we ate it. hehe

And don't forget the marrow for all you marrow lovers- you know who you are.