Braised Beef Shank

While spending time with Ellie and Orion of Firefly Private Dining recently, they recalled how they prepared Braised Beef Shank from Mountain Meat Shares beef soup bones. These aren't just bones... they really are large rounds of meat surrounding a bone in the middle. So I asked that they share their recipe so that I could share it with you! I'm sure that a similar result might come from several hours in the crock pot as well.

 Just a few left... order now!

Just a few left... order now!

Braised Beef Shank by Firefly Private Dining

We love tender braised beef on a winter day!

  • 2 pounds fresh bone-in beef shank
  • 2 cups dry red wine for cooking
  • 4 to 6 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (or lard)
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Serving Suggestion: Beef Shank with Creamy Polenta and Pickled Chiles (recipe below)

For the Beef Shank Braise: If you would like to make your own beef stock: lay out 2 to 3 pounds of beef bones onto a sheet tray lined with aluminum foil.  Heat an oven to 500° F and roast the bones for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are heavily browned but not burnt.  Remove them from the tray and place them into a tall pot.  Cover them with water by 3 or 4 inches and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 8 to 10 hours.  You may need to add more water to the pot over the course of cooking.  Strain the stock through a fine strainer, reserve the liquid and discard the bones, refrigerate the stock until you would like to use it. You can make this up to two weeks in advance, though you can also use store-bought beef stock if you would like, just make sure to purchase stock with the lowest sodium.

Cooking the Shanks: Preheat an oven to 280° F.

Once you have your beef stock, lay your beef shanks out in a single layer on a sheet tray.  Liberally season the shank meat on both sides with salt, using about 2 teaspoons per piece.  Heat a wide, deep pot over high heat for 5 minutes or so, making sure that it is very hot before use.  Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil to the pot, and coat the entire bottom.  Add 2 or 3 pieces of beef shank to the pot, making sure to leave a couple of inches of space between each piece.   Occasionally rotate the shanks around the pot for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the meat is nicely browned, but not burnt.  Flip the shanks over and repeat the searing on the other side. 

Remove the shanks from the pot onto a clean tray and repeat the searing process with all of the pieces of beef shank.  Once all of the shanks are seared, turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool for about a minute before adding the butter and sliced onion, season with a tablespoon of salt and turn the heat to medium.  Put a lid on the pot and cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the onions are translucent and soft, add the ground peppercorns and fennel seed and stir to combine, cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the red wine to the pot and cook the wine until it is reduced by about half.  Add your beef stock and season with a little more salt so that it tastes seasoned, but not salty.

Add the beef shanks to the pot, and if they are not covered with liquid add more stock until they are. Season with a touch more salt to taste.  Keep cooking on medium until the liquid is just below a simmer, so you can see steam but not bubbles.  Cover the pot with a well fitting lid and put the pot into your preheated oven.  Alternatively, you can transfer the beef shanks and the liquid from the pot into a slow cooker and braise on medium heat (between 250 and 300 degrees). You could also cook the braise on low (200-225 degrees) for 7-8 hours.

If cooking the shanks in an oven, braise for 3-4 hours or until the meat is able to easily pull apart but is not complete mush.  Remove from the oven, and remove the lid.  Allow the braise to cool at room temperature with the meat submerged for at least an hour before using, preferably overnight.  You can make this braise up to one week before you wish to eat it, removing the bones and cartilage and storing the meat with its braising liquid.

Braised Beef Shank with Creamy Polenta and Pickled Chilies

Serves 6 as an Entrée

 3 cups braised beef shank, bones removed, with liquid

Polenta:

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups non-instant polenta or grits (we like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, with more to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Pickled Chilies:

  • 4 to 6 cherry peppers
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt salt
  • Pecorino or Parmigiano Cheese to finish

For the Polenta: Pour the water and milk into a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Season the liquid with kosher salt, starting with one tablespoon and seasoning later on in the cooking process. Stream the polenta slowly into the liquid, whisking constantly to make sure it does not clump. Return the mixture to a simmer and lower the heat to medium-low, whisking frequently to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Cook the polenta for 30 minutes and taste: it should be pleasantly smooth with softened corn granules. If the mixture is still coarse and unpleasantly hard, keep cooking the polenta over medium heat until it has softened. You may need to add more water if the polenta gets too thick. After it has cooked to your liking, turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter and a little more water to loosen the polenta so that it makes soft waves when you move the pan. Season to taste with salt and cover the polenta until it is time to serve.

For the Pickled Chilies: Remove the tops and seeds from the peppers, and slice them thinly before putting them into a heatproof container.  In a medium saucepot, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt, and bring to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, pour the liquid over the sliced peppers, making sure they are submerged.  Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature. You can keep these refrigerated for six months.

To Serve: Warm the braised beef shank and liquid over medium heat until it is hot but not boiling, removing any cartilage. Ladle the polenta into a serving bowl or rimmed dish and then place the shank pieces with liquid on top. Garnish the dish with pickled chiles to your liking and cover with grated Pecorino or Parmigiano.

BeefJennifer Knoetgen