Braised Beef Shanks: “The meat that warms my belly”

May 22, 2010 § 2 Comments


My four-year-old daughter has described this dish as “the meat that warms my belly,” adding that she wanted me to make it “all the time.” I made it the other day following a suggestion from my friend Rebecca, who knows that beef marrow holds a special place in my heart.

Before Rebecca, I didn’t really know this cut existed – that is, I knew, of course, that cows had legs, and that the legs were full of marrow (which I love), but I’d never heard of these, so when we butchered a cow last week, I asked my butcher to cut some for me (normally, this part would become soup bones, which I also use extensively).

Now because shanks are sections of a cow’s leg, and because, as you would imagine, these muscles get a lot of workout, a piece like that benefits the most from a long, slow simmer. Since I am always up for some braised beef, be it in the form of pot-roast, swiss steak, or anything along those lines, I couldn’t wait to try it.

I used a Bon Appétit recipe for lamb shanks as guide (but simplified it considerably to suit my rustic tastes).


See the marrow inside the bone cross-sections? It's good stuff. Very, very good.

Use a pair of large tongs to turn them over when you brown them, because the oil will splatter and you don’t want it to splatter all over your arm. How do you think I know this?shanks collage1-1

Braised Beef Shanks

Adapted from the Bon Appétit magazine.

  • 3 beef shanks (I recommend using exclusively grass-fed beef in all instances, if you can lay your hands on it)
  • salt and pepper to taste or Montreal Steak Seasoning (available in supermarkets, which is what I used)
  • enough white flour to coat the meat
  • oil, for browning (I used sunflower)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped/minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3/4 C white wine
  • 1 1/2 C chicken stock (beef stock will also work)
  • a couple of sprigs of parsley
  • a pinch or two dried thyme (fresh would also be good)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • chopped fresh dill, for garnish (parsley will also work)

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle each piece of meat generously with salt and pepper or Montreal Steak seasoning. Coat both sides in flour, and brown in oil on all sides. Remove to a plate. Saute carrots, onions, and celery in the same pot until they begin to brown, then add tomato paste and garlic and saute for a couple minutes more. Return the meat to the pot, and add wine, stock, bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and simmer, covered, for three hours or until the meat is meltingly-tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve with mashed potatoes or other side of your choice. (Do not remove the meat from the bones before serving, and be sure to suck every bit of marrow out of them. A knife, a fork, a spoon, your tongue – whatever it takes – after black caviar, there’s no greater delicacy I can think of. I know I am not sharing it with anyone else at the table.)

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