Bachelorhood has basically shaped my diet; red meat is plentiful in this kitchen. Once the tenderloin was as good as it could get, and butterflied loin chops were the most coveted, the rest went into the grind pile. Eventually, the drive to deplete a sometimes overstocked freezer and a long-dead appreciation for burger led to a greater understanding and appreciation for the tough cuts.
The shank is a prime example of this--picture meat buried under layers of silver skin and sinew wrapped around a short baseball bat. The tongue sitting between molars still clinging to their last bit of green cud. The shoulder that at first glance looks like mostly bone with muscle turns into some really odd looking steaks once the muscle comes off. If you must grind, then grind. But appreciate these cuts because if you leave them in the woods or aim for both shoulders, then you're going to miss out on some really unique and delicious meals.
Being as I think most people mean well and just don't know any better, I will help you out with some easy recipes over the coming weeks. What these recipes have in common are low cooking temps and time.
- 1lg White onion
- 6-8 Cloves of garlic
- 2-3 Medium-sized carrots
- 2 Celery ribs
- Olive Oil, 2- tbsp to coat + 2-3tbsp in reserve
- Flour, I have found whole wheat flour works great for dishes like this but use whatever you have on hand. About 1/4 cup will be plenty to dust the shank
- The Fat. Again I prefer side-pork or some sort of uncured pig. I keep a package of side-pork or pork belly in the freezer and hack off an inch or two from the end for this purpose. Using something a bit more pricey like Pancetta adds a little flavor and it's nice to add back on top of your finished dish.
- 1 Cup red wine
- 2 Bay leaves
- *other common herbs for this dish include but are not limited to rosemary, thyme.
You can leave this in the shape of the aforementioned baseball bat or cut through the bone into slightly prettier disks.
Coat in olive oil, salt, pepper and a light dusting of flour. Let the meat sit as you brown the uncured bacon or pancetta. Remove the crispy bits and replace with the shank, brown on all sides and remove from pan. (This should be done on medium-high heat. If you find yourself running low on the pig fat, you can add a bit of olive oil just bump the heat down a bit, so it does not burn.)
In the same pan throw in diced onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Next, when your vegetables start to stick in the pan, it's time to dump in a cup of red wine and stir until the bottom of the pan looks easy to clean.
Dump this whole mess into a crock pot or dutch oven and add the bay leaves. Place the shank on top and add water until the meat is mostly covered, then put the lid on top. Place on low heat if you are heading to work, or high if you are knocking this out over the lunch hour.
When you get home, give the meat a flip. If there is too much water for your liking you can remove the lid and turn up the heat while you make the risotto, mashed potatoes, or polenta as a vessel for your shank meat. When you serve this, you can tell your friends you made Osso Bucco. The fancy name will improve the taste for your non-culinary friends.