A funny thing happens when you shop for meat from the farmer/rancher. You learn a LOT about how to make a bit of meat stretch a long way and you learn about cuts of meat you have never heard of. Farmers are, by their nature, frugal people. I have also learned that most farmers love to eat. This makes for some great conversations about menu planning. Try having that conversation with the meat guy at your chain grocery store. Go ahead. I’ll wait…
Until last year, I had never even considered buying beef shanks, let alone how to cook them. As a rather inexpensive cut of meat, they deliver TONS of flavor, but require a long, slow cooking method, like braising. Mae Farm and Farmhand Foods both offer excellent quality beef and this dish uses them to their maximum potential. One of the lovely aspects of braising is that you can make dinner while you watch a football game. I find that pretty fabulous.
I found a promising recipe on epicurious, reduced the amount of meat, upped the level of vegetables in the ragu and reduced the overall liquids to make a thicker sauce for pasta and polenta. It is AMAZING. Not only did the final product taste delicious and tender, but my entire house smelled like I had Super Chef visiting. Yum, yum and YUM. I could actually eat this out of a bowl by itself. And, I have to admit, I have eaten it by itself. Still. Awesome.
So, if you’re in the mood to try something new and make the most out of a less expensive cut of beef (especially if it is locally produced and hormone/antibiotic free!), give this a try!
Beef Shank and Sausage Ragu (12 servings)
- 3 tsp. fennel seeds
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. Mae Farm Italian sausage, casing removed
- 3 1/2 lbs beef shanks with bone
- 2 large organic onions, chopped
- 3 cups of chopped organic carrots
- 2 cups of organic mushrooms
- 1 bunch of organic kale or other greens
- 2 28 oz. cans organic whole tomatoes with juice
- 1 small can organic tomato paste
- 1/2 bottle dry, red wine
- 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tsp. organic dried Italian spices
- 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.
- Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in an oven proof pot and add sausage. Brown in pot for about 10 minutes, breaking up chunks with the spoon. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pot and put aside in a large bowl.
- Add 1 Tbsp. oil to pot. Sprinkle beef shanks with salt and pepper. Add to pot and brown at medium high heat for about 6 minutes on each side. Transfer to bowl with sausage.
- Add onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and greens to the pot and saute until brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Return beef shanks and sausage to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, fennel seeds, spices to pot. Bring to simmer.
- Cover pot and put in oven. Braise 2 1/2 hours until beef is very tender and falling off the bone.
- Transfer shanks to a cutting board and remove meat and dice. Return diced meat to the pot and simmer on stove for about 10-15 minutes to thicken and reduce the sauce.
- Skim fat off the sauce (I actually cooled the sauce, put it in the fridge and skimmed the fat off the next day.)
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve over pasta, polenta or bread.