The food media likes to promise the impossible. Dinner in fifteen minutes? Maybe if it’s a sandwich (or summer, but let’s please not think about summer right now). The thing is, I like my dinner slow. I love simmering something for hours or crafting a meal step-by-step over a series of days. Slow food. We’ve all heard of that. And now that winter is making a show of things, there’s nothing I want more than to have a big pot of something bubbling away on my stovetop.
Besides warmth and general coziness, slow cooking has another benefit. Braises can make magic out of otherwise undesirable cuts of meat. Why bother with undesirable cuts? There are a few reasons. The first is cost. Lesser cuts are cheaper, and when you’re buying pastured, sustainably-raised meats, price gets to be an issue fast. But the second reason is taste. Tough cuts are often flavorful cuts and connective tissue tastes good (when braised, of course.). The sinewy shank is marbled with collagen-rich connective tissue, but after a long braise that tissue breaks down and leaves you with a very rich dish. We’ve featured a few undesirables here before, including lamb shanks, lamb necks, and oxtails (for even more winter braises, check out our braising category).
All this preamble is to say that we braised this shank for over ten hours. Enough for the meat to fall apart and then cook for another couple of hours. As you can imagine, the sauce is wonderfully rich and goes way deep on flavor. Braised in wine with canned whole tomatoes, shallots, and paprika, and finished with an unexpected hit of lemon zest, this sauce is almost good enough to make you glad it’s 5 degrees out.
I have some exciting news to share––over on Marcus Samuelsson’s blog there’s an interview with yours truly about home cooking, good food, and kitchen failures. I’m so honored to be featured there!
Beef Shank Ragu and Broccolini with Pappardelle
This recipe is easiest as a two day affair. Braise the meat a day ahead, refrigerate overnight, and then finish the next day for dinner.
for the braised beef shank
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 pounds boneless beef shank
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 cup of dry red wine
16 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon spicy Hungarian paprika
zest of 1 lemon
for the broccolini and pappardelle
2 bunches broccolini, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
16 ounces dried pappardelle
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice, divided
sea salt to taste
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sear the shank on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Toss in the shallots, seas salt, and spices; nudge shallots a bit until they have browned on the edges. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and the wine. Use a spoon to scrape up any brown bits. Once the sauce is bubbling vigorously, stir, turn heat to low, and cover.
Braise for 6 – 8 hours. Check each hour, adding some liquid (a little more wine or some water, if you want) if needed. Every 3 hours, flip the shank. Eventually, the shank will collapse. At this point, pull of any large hunks of connective tissue that have not yet broken down. Cover, and continue to simmer over very low heat for another 1 – 2 hours, until meat is incredibly tender.
An hour before serving, add the lemon zest, check salt levels, and adjust if need. Continue to simmer over very low heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Immerse the broccolini and blanche for 3 minutes. Remove broccolini from water with tongs and set aside. Use the same water to boil your pappardelle to al dente.
In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broccolini and sauté for another 4 minutes.
Arrange the pappardelle noodles in wide bowls. Spoon on the beef shank ragu and top with the broccolini. Finish each dish with a squeeze of lemon juice.