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Friday, April 13, 2012

Wine Braised Beef Shanks with Goat Cheese Polenta

Last night we ate beef shanks, a cut of beef I never knew existed until our steers were slaughtered here at the ranch and transported to the Matanza butcher shop in Taos. Marlene, the traveling Matanza Unit butcher, gave us a cut sheet listing the various ways we could have our beef butchered and wrapped, and Greg, the butcher at the Taos Food Center, called me after the sides of beef had dry aged for 21 days, an optimal amount of time to age beef. As a point of comparison, supermarket beef is not aged, or it's wet aged, which doesn't contribute to the flavor of the beef. It costs money to have carcasses sitting around in the cooler, aging, and big beef factories are all about profits rather than flavor.

 From the cut sheet I ordered what we wanted, and Greg let me know right then if the combinations I asked for would work. For instance, I didn't order porterhouse or t-bone steaks because if I got those big steaks, there would be no New York strip or filets mignon, since they are the large and small parts of a porterhouse. To help me visualize what we would be getting, I printed out a diagram of a beef, just like in the cartoons when the farmer looks at his cow and sees the steaks and roasts superimposed on the cow's body. (Unlike the cartoons, a sharp knife and fork did not immediately appear in my hands and my eyes didn't bulge out in a gluttonous frenzy.)

Beef Shanks

So the shank is the steer's leg, cut crosswise, meat surrounding a round bone in each one inch slice. This is a tough cut of meat, since the steer walks on it all the time, but with slow, careful braising, beef shanks can be moist and flavorful. Low and and slow is the name of the game, and I am not talking about classic low rider cars, homies!

Suzanne Tucker /
 Last night was the second time I cooked this recipe, and it was perfect. I used this Emiril Lagasse recipe, Red Wine Braised Beef Shanks. Because my range doesn't have a low enough simmer, I used the oven at 250 degrees for 4 hours instead of simmering it on top of the stove. You might want to test at 3 hours since our elevation is 7200 feet so stuff has to cook longer.

I served the beef shanks on a puddle of polenta, using this recipe, Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta, from The Pioneer Woman's website.

The photo above is the first time I cooked polenta, and you can see how it spread on the plate. I should have cooked it a little longer to thicken. On the second attempt I added 5 minutes, with more lava bubbles (check out the photo below so you understand what I mean) and lots of galooping sounds as the bubbles burst. Cooking polenta, which is essentially a corn meal version of Cream of Wheat cereal or rice grits, is easy if you remember to slowly pour the cornmeal into the boiling water, whisking, whisking, whisking. If you pour it all in at once, it may be lumpy, and you want smooth.

The beef shanks recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of red wine. Don't use your expensive fancy stuff for this, but use an everyday dry red table wine, like 3 Buck Chuck, which we purchase by the case at Trader Joe's.

This is Three Buck Chuck, aka Charles Shaw. In California I think it's still Two Bucks.
Beef shanks requires some long, slow cooking, so I suggest it as a Sunday dinner when you have some time to futz around in the kitchen. All in all, the beef shanks recipe is amazing with just the right ratio of veggies, sauce and meat. The polenta is dreamycreamy and even good for breakfast the next day with a fried egg on top.

Enjoy, and have an excellent weekend! I have some sewing to do! Yay!


  1. Beef shank is also a good basis for stock or beef veggie soup... lots of flavor!

  2. I grew up on homegrown beef, but interestingly I don't think we ever had shanks - I'm guessing ours were separated into stew meat and soup bones. This does look tasty!

  3. What if trader Joe's Charles Shaw wine IS the good stuff? I think that is all we have here. (we buy it by the case too, it's 4-6 hrs to a Trader joes from here)


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