It seems there is a renewed appreciation for cuts of meat that are tougher, thus requiring longer cooking times. The idea snuggles nicely into the trend of more home cooked meals. More and more of us are opting for home cooked meals. Sometimes the meals are quick-fix and sometimes long cooking. Either way, we’re cooking and eating more at home. Our bodies are benefiting from better nutrition and our hearts are benefiting from quality home time and a sense of accomplishment. Win-win!
Beef shanks are quite commonly used for soup and soup stock. You can make a world-class beef vegetable soup by starting out with some good beef shanks. Their usefulness doesn’t stop there. You’re denying yourself a wonderful experience if you’ve never braised them. Once you’ve seasoned and seered the meat, it cooks on auto-pilot until the meat is butter tender and so flavorful you’ll get tongue-tied trying to describe it. Additionally, you benefit emotionally from the wonderful cooking aroma that wafts about your nose, kitchen and house for several hours. The aroma is a thing of beauty all unto itself. Keep a tissue handy. You’ll need to dab tears and saliva while it’s cooking .
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Braised Beef Shanks
I started with beef shanks that were about 3/4 to one inch thick. You can probably have your butcher cut them to your specifications. At that thickness, I cooked them approximately 4 hours to get tender. I used my Homemade Taco Seasoning and Rub for seasoning the flour prior to seering. You can use your favorite seasoning mix or just use salt or pepper.
4 to 5 pounds beef shanks
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon Homemade Taco Seasoning and Rub
olive oil, for seering meat and sautéing vegetables
2 medium sweet onions, sliced
5 to 6 cloves of garlic, ,minced
4 carrots, washed and left whole
3 celery stalks and leaves, washed and left whole
3 cups Homemade Beef Stock or good quality commercially prepared
2 cups red wine (not cooking wine)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 4 teaspoons fresh)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix flour and seasoning. Lightly dredge beef shanks in mixture. Seer on high heat in olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Remove from pan.
Add onions to pot and additional olive oil if needed. Saute until soft. Add garlic the last couple minutes of cooking.
When onions are garlic are soft, add beef stock and wine and scrape all the goodie from the bottom of the pot. Some of you may know this as deglazing. What ever you call it, don’t forget to do it. You’ll be missing out on a lot of flavor. Return beef shanks to the pot and add carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Make sure the meat is covered with the liquid.
Cover tightly, place in a 300 degree oven and cook for approximately 4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. After the meat’s done, remove it and strain out all the vegetables. Reduce the liquid down by about half. Remove bones and return meat to braising liquid. Serve over rice, potatoes, grits or grits’ well-known cousin polenta. Cooking in a cast iron pot plus red wine makes the liquid very dark. And delicious. And tender.