Beef Shank and Sausage Ragu

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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
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Add onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and greens to the pot and sautee until brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. 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.
  7. Cover pot and put in oven. Braise 2 1/2 hours until beef is very tender and falling off the bone.
  8. 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.
  9. Skim fat off the sauce (I actually cooled the sauce, put it in the fridge and skimmed the fat off the next day.)
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve over pasta, polenta or bread.
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Warm, Brussels Sprout Salad

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This salad wasn’t on my weekly menu, but I made it anyway. Those of you who are Brussels sprout haters will not understand, but I was completely craving these little cabbages. This is one of my favorite winter salads because it is packed full of flavor and served warm, which is comforting on a chilly evening. I am not sure where this recipe originated–I thought I dreamed it up, but it is everwhere, so I’m guessing I am not such a genius!

One note: use FRESH sprouts, not frozen. It makes all the difference in the world. We can get Brussels sprouts fresh at our farmers markets during the cooler months, but we also buy them still on the stalk at Trader Joes for about $2.99, making this a very economical as well as nourishing meal. If you can’t find fresh sprouts, you could substitute broccoli, and that would be tasty as well!

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad (serves 4)

  • 4 cups cooked grains (quinoa, barley, or rice)
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 strips local, pasture-raised smoked bacon
  • 1 cup new crop pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zested and and juiced
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, gently stirring sprouts every 10 minutes.
  3. While sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions to the bacon fat and sauté for 20 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When sprouts are roasted and browned on the edges, remove them from the oven.
  6. In a large bowl, gently toss the sprouts, onions, blue cheese, cranberries, crumbled bacon and pecans.
  7. Divide cooked grains among serving bowls and top with warm salad mix.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Shrimp, Fish and Andouille Jambalaya

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It isn’t Mardi Gras yet, and the Super Bowl is still a week away, but I’m in the mood for some spicy, smokey jambalaya! There’s nothing like spicy cayenne and red pepper to clear your head of any winter sniffles and with the chilly weather here, we can all use something hot and spicy. I picked up some NC shrimp and fish at Locals Seafood this week as well as some andouille sausage from Mae Farm. We are using our frozen tomatoes and peppers, homemade chicken stock and our own homemade cajun seasoning. The end result? Yum-a-licious! And enough food to feed us during a busy week! I had never made jambalaya with fish before–it tastes a lot like spicy cioppino, if you’ve ever had that. Ellie wasn’t fond of the seafood, so next time, I may try just chicken and andouille sausage, but Tom and I liked it as is! Which is good, because we have a ton of it!

I adapted the recipe below from THIS recipe on allrecipes.com

Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya (8-10 main dish servings)

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced celery (we used fennel instead because we had it on hand)
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup roasted tomato sauce (or tomato paste)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp. cajun seasoning (see below)
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups organic, basmati rice
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. white fish, cut into bite size chunks
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Cajun seasoning mix (from THIS recipe at allrecipes.com)

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together. Set aside.

Jambalaya

  1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. When foam has subsided, add the sausage and cook until browned, 3-5 minutes. Remove sausage and set aside.
  2. Add onion, celery/fennel, and green/red peppers to the pot and cook until onion is soft–about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Be careful not to let garlic scorch.
  4. Add tomato paste and return sausage to the pot. Stir well to combine. Add the tomatoes and spice mix. Stir again and cook about 15 minutes.
  5. Add chicken broth to the pot and stir well. Raise heat to medium/high and bring to a boil.
  6. Add rice to the pot, stir well to combine. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes.
  7. Add seafood to the pot, increase the heat to medium/high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for about 15 more minutes–longer if your mixture is too soupy. It should be thick.
  8. Season with salt and pepper (if necessary) and plate your jambalaya into bowls. Sprinkle with parsely and serve!
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