Real Food for Real Life

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And that promised recipe...

Red Wine Braised Beef Shanks and Garlic Smashed Potatoes
and Simply Steamed Green Beans

As I mentioned in a previous post, I got some beef shanks prepared on Friday morning (once I got them in the oven I headed outside to work), and this made Sunday dinner wonderfully easy to prepare.  While I have made braised beef dishes a number of different ways, I had never before used beef shanks.  Everything I had heard about shanks was that there was an additional richness obtained from the slow cooking of the bone marrow, so I really wanted to try them.  This dish was super rich and delicious, but quite honestly, I can't say it was any better than if I had just used stew meat- I think there is just too much richness anyway to notice an incremental increase (and the stew meat is much easier to find at the grocery).

I served the shanks (or portions of them anyway, two of these bad boys together weighed in at 2 1/2 lbs.!), and the vegetable filled sauce over garlic smashed potatoes.  To make the potatoes, just add a head of peeled garlic cloves to the potatoes before cooking, then mash them up with the potatoes.  I always leave the skin on and don't even try to get out the lumps, they are so much better that way.  Ben must have really been craving richness, because he requested that I add cream cheese to the potatoes as well (8oz. reduced fat); they were certainly decadent.  To cut the richness a bit, I served simply steamed green beans with lemon wedges to squeeze over for the touch of acidity (I think you will find you need it).


Red Wine Braised Beef Shanks

2 1/2 lbs. (or so) center cut beef shanks
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
flour for dredging
olive or canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb. carrots in bite sized chunks (I used baby carrots cut in half)
1 lb. mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending on size
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef stock

Season the shanks liberally with the salt and pepper, then dredge in plain flour.  In a heavy deep pan, heat over med-high heat just enough oil to coat the bottom; once hot, sear both sides of the shanks, working in batches if necessary.  Remove the shanks to a plate and reserve.  Add the onions to the pan and saute until golden, this will just take as few minutes and you may find it necessary to add a bit more oil.  Add the carrots and mushrooms, saute until the mushrooms have released their juices.  Stir in the thyme and bay leaves, pour in the wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Turn off the heat and nestle the beef shanks in the veggies in the pan.  Pour in the stock, cover tightly, and put into a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours.  Remove from the oven, uncover, and let sit on the stove top until cool enough to recover and refrigerate.
On the day you wish to serve the shanks, remove the pan from the fridge and remove the solidified fat from the top (this is so much easier than trying to skim the fat off while still warm).  Cover and return to the oven at 350 for one hour to heat through.  After the hour, if the sauce in the pan is not thick enough for your liking, you may wish to add a bit of cornstarch slurry and heat on the stove top a few minutes to thicken.  Serve with whatever starch you like, although with this I would lean toward something substantial like potatoes rather than rice.

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