Shanks are tough, and if they come from something like a big bull elk, they can be intimidating to cook. They also are somewhat difficult to fit in a pot, since they are like the size of a football. Unfortunatly, most of these get left in the field due to the extra weight of backpacking, or just thrown into the grind pile. Then all that connective tissue clogs up your grinder, no Bueno. So I am going to go through the method I use to break them down, using a jigsaw, but any power saw could work. Or if you take your animals to process, simply state you want the shanks cut into 1/4 sections with bone in. This recipe will work for deer, antelope, lamb, which can be kept whole.
The main reason I like this recipe, is the technique. Braising is a method of utilizing warm liquid to break down tough connective tissue, and tough cuts of meat. The bonus of using a cut like shanks is all those ligaments and collagen. When broken down in a warm liquid for a long amount of time it dissolves them, and adds nice juicy/silky texture that you typically cannot get with fully cooked lean cuts. Once you get the technique down you can alter this recipe to make an array of different dishes. Add some tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, red wine, Italian spices and you can make classic osso bucco. Use lime, onions, chili powder, cerveza, garlic, cumin, oregano, cilantro to make a good taco meat.
So I hope you choose to utilize those shanks this fall. I am willing to bet once you try it you will want to keep them. A great flavorful cut that is just as tender as any, if you treat it right.
- 1 Elk Shank (or 4 deer, antelope, lamb)
- 2- 16 oz Guinness cans (3 or 4 if you are thirsty)
- 1 yellow onion
- 5 cloves of garlic
- Fresh rosemary
- 1 T kosher salt
- 1 T black pepper
- 1 T of beef paste (or you can use 1 cup stock and omit the water)
- 1 Cup of water
- Olive oil
- 4 T flour
Take the elk shank and divide into 4 sections, I used a jigsaw, but use what you have available. Or just have your processor do it when you take the animal. PLEASE BE SAFE! Then wrap around with butcher twine to secure, season with the salt and pepper.
Using an oven safe pot with a lid, place on stove on medium high heat with about 5 T of Olive oil. When oil starts to smoke sear all of the cuts, about 2 minutes per side. You are looking for a nice crust on both sides of the meat, which will add a good depth of flavor to it.
Remove the meat once it is browned nicely, and add sliced onions and chopped garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent, then add the beer, water and beef paste(or stock). The stock/beef base and water will add a little extra liquid to ensure that a sufficient amount remains after reduction.
After stirring the liquid up nicely, being sure to scrap up all the tasty bits from the pan, add the meat back to the pot. Your goal is to have the liquid at least 2/3 up the meat. Then sprinkle some sprigs of fresh rosemary over the top.
Cover the pot and place in a 300*F oven for 6.5 hours. There is approximately 40 oz of liquid now, but you will lose a bit over 6.5 hrs. That will concentrate the flavors to give a nice malty, salty, umami gravy. Which will be thickened with a rue.
When the time is up on the shanks, pull out and place on the stove top. Turning the burner on medium. Just enough to maintain a simmer nicely. Now for the rue.
In a small saucepan, place 4 T of olive oil and 4 T of flour on medium heat. Stirring constantly to a light peanut butter color. When the color is reached, ladle a small amount of the Guinness broth to the flour mixture, slowly and off the burner. Stir vigorously and add to the shanks. Then stir thoroughly to incorporate the rue to the liquid in the pot, then turn up the burner to medium high. Once a good small boil is reached, stir for about 1 or 2 minutes till it has thickened, then pull the pot off the burner. It is important to constantly scrap the bottom of the pot to insure the gravy doesn’t burn as it thickens.
When the gravy is thickened, pull the meat and place on a platter. Be sure to cut the twine off. The gravy can be strained and placed in a bowl or boat. I like potatoes with a meal like this, so that’s what I used for a side. Enjoy! Oh ya, crack a Guinness, and pour hard.