Shank Redemption

I take a great deal of pride, as you should too this season, in using the whole animal and all its unique cuts. Any knucklehead can cut a few steaks and roasts, then grind the rest, throw out the bones, and be done with it. But I think if you're not going to honor the animal by using it in its entirety, then you shouldn't shoot the thing in the first place. Here's one way to use an often-overlooked piece of meat that usually finds itself in the “to be ground” pile: the shank.

trimmed shank
salt and pepper to taste
several tablespoons of olive or canola oil
2 cups red wine
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
6-8 cups beef stock, enough to cover shank
tomato paste, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or herbs (optional, to taste)

The shank is like your calf, knee to ankle. You can be careful to separate the joints if you wish for a dramatic "Viking dinner" presentation, or you can get out the hack-saw and, well, hack. Put a large roasting pan on your stovetop and get it screaming hot. Add the oil. Season the shank with salt and pepper and sear in the pan, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Remove oil from pan; place pan back on burners. Deglaze pan with red wine, making sure to scrape up brown bits on bottom of pan (these add tremendous flavor). On medium-high heat, reduce wine by half. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté for 3-5 minutes. Place shank back in pan and add enough beef stock to almost cover. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer. Simmer at least one hour (depending on size of shank) until meat is about to fall off the bone.

When meat is done, remove it, set it aside, and keep it warm. Strain remaining cooking liquid into a sauce pan, season with salt and pepper if necessary. On medium-high heat, reduce liquid to desired consistency. Season as you wish. For sweetness, add tomato paste to taste if desired. For tanginess, add lemon juice or red wine vinegar to taste. Rosemary and thyme are also good options.

Serve meat with sauce. Some good old mashed potatoes and vegetables make this a meal fit for a warrior—or for a nice date and a bottle of wine.