Some of our wonderful, local farms have beef shanks available this winter. I have to say, I had never even considered buying beef shanks, let alone how to cook them. So, this was another learning experience in our journey–not only buying locally produced meat and vegetables, but also being open to new ways of cooking. As it turns out (and you may know this already), beef shanks are a braising cut. That is, they are a bit tough and need long, slow cooking to break down the meat and produce a tender result. Since this was one of our chilliest weekends, it was perfect timing for slow cooking.
I found a recipe that sounded promising on epicurious (LOVE this website and app) atwww.epicurious.com for a beef and sausage ragu. I tweaked it a bit and am including my version below. Mainly, I 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.
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 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 sautee 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.