It sometimes amazes me that in today’s world of high-end restaurants and lofty food shows the simpler cuts of meat are either forgotten or worse, are thought of as something only useful for the most basic of culinary tasks. My issue with this trend is that some of the cuts now shunned by most shoppers have the capability of producing the most wonderful and intense flavors when treated correctly. These ingredients should be commonly used, not relegated to a back shelf in the meat aisle with labeling spelling out their least delectable use.
Take this poor misunderstood specimen:
When I went into the market the other day, I had no intention of braising anything. It’s still full-blown summertime hot here in Far Northern California with temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees on most days, so having something simmering on the cook top wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Fortunately for me, my first reaction to the above label was something like;
“For Stock! Are you kidding me? That’s a perfect braise!”
And with just a little love, it was.
I think too many people get caught up in the idea that braising takes a very long time. In fact, the secret to a great braise is less about the actual cooking time than it is about the love put into the first few steps of the process. A good sear, the proper accouterments and the ability to simply sit back and let the thing happen are all that is really required to achieve stunning results for very little effort and even less money.
In the case of this dish, a bit of good port, some onions, garlic, vegetable broth, a few herbs and some aggressive seasoning was all that it took to elevate this humble shank cut to new levels of perfection.
Granted, I did use a bottle of port valued at over $30.00, but only because I had it lying about. An equal amount of a $7.00 port or a $5.00 Marsala would have served just as well in this case. (Even a cheap Burgundy or Zinfandel would have been fine.) A great braise is about methods. It’s about deep, rich flavors. It’s about taking all the love you can give a dish and letting the meal return the favor.
This recipe won’t let you down.
It may be the dog days of summer, but winter will be here before you know it. This is most definitely a recipe you should explore and make your own. Add some tomato paste, a few mushrooms, a bit of whatever else you like. Toss some potatoes in about 30 minutes before serving. Top a salad with the beef and make a vinaigrette from the jous. It really doesn’t matter. This is worth exploring. It will satisfy your heart, your mind and hopefully, a good portion of your soul.
It’s that good.
- 1.5 to 3 lbs beef shank
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 cup Port Wine
- Vegetable Stock, to cover
- Olive Oil, for searing
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Watercress as a garnish (optional)
- Place a large dutch oven or stock-pot with a tight fitting lid over medium high heat. Season both sides of beef generously with salt and pepper. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to pot and swirl to coat. Place Beef shank in pan and cook for 2-4 minutes per side, or until a deep, rich crust is formed.
- Toss in onions, garlic and Italian seasoning. Pour wine over shank and shake pan vigorously. Add stock until beef is barely visible. Press vegetables down with spoon. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 4 to 5 hours, or until beef is fork-tender. Test for seasoning (Chances are you’ll need to add a good bit of salt and pepper at this point) and simmer an additional 20 minutes.
- Serve over rice, topped with just a bit of watercress, if desired.
- Share and Enjoy!
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
This dish is all about seasoning. Don’t be afraid of salt and pepper here. It’s going to need far more of both than you think it is. Test after three hours and keep adjusting in small doses until the broth is as rich as you like it to be.
Links to other recipes like this: