© 2011 Joshua Stark
After describing the wonderful dinner we had last night, Hank Shaw recommended I put the recipe up on the blog, and since I'm not one to argue with a published cook, here goes:
Braised Venison Shank in Gooseberry & Thrifty Italian sauce
2 venison shanks (I suppose any shank meat w/bone could be used here)
Oh, about 1 Cup of gooseberry syrup
More or less 1 Cup of Thrifty Italian (a green walnut liquor)
1 chile arbol, dried
scant teaspoon of allspice
Black pepper (peppercorns probably best, we just used rough ground pepper)
Some kind of fatty meat (we used sausage, but bacon works best)
1 T olive oil (we used avocado oil - got it for free)
2 T brown sugar
1-2 Cups of broth (we used Better Than Bullion)
I took the basic braised venison shank recipe from Hank's blog (which he, in turn, adapted from a Portuguese cookbook), but left out the garlic (accidentally).
I preheated the oven at 300 degrees, and I put in my long casserole dish to heat with it. I salted the shanks.
I made small medallions out of a landjaeger sausage, fried them in the avocado oil, removed them, and then browned the shanks, removed them, and browned the finely chopped onion in the drippings.
Meanwhile, I simmered the liquids on the stove with the brown sugar, pepper, some ground black pepper, allspice and cloves, and dumped the browned onions into it when they were ready.
After everything was ready, I put the shanks into the casserole, and poured the spicy-sweet concoction over them. I covered the casserole, put it in the oven, and walked out.
I didn't even set the timer.
Around four hours later, I came back, pulled it out of the oven, and we ate. My wife had made some brown rice and quiso de pipian as sides, and they fit perfectly. All three of us loved the dish, and I think baby Ruben did, too - he breastfed that night like a baby possessed (seriously).
Now I'm going to tell you the truth: Next to a roast in a crock pot, braising shanks is the easiest way to get the most flavorful, most approachable meat you can serve. Since the cooking is low and slow, and takes 3-4 hours, it's really hard to get it wrong. There's no need for basting, no worry over charring parts or losing drippings or anything of the sort.
To get really good braised shank, you don't need the fancy-sounding stuff I used (which is only fancy because it isn't usually found in stores, but it's actually just stuff I have available to me). Shank meat needs a sweet (brown sugar and/or molasses simply cannot be beat, and adding apple juice, orange juice, or some kind of jam is great, too), some strong spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon, two of which were already in my Thrifty Italian), a touch of fire (a mildly hot pepper goes a long way), salt (salt), and some bouillon to keep the meat nice and moist. Part of the enjoyment comes from mixing and matching different kinds of sweet, fire, spice, and salt, but you are just picking the best of the best. Shank meat is easy, tasty, and makes a wonderful presentation.
Our gooseberry syrup, by the way, was absolutely perfect for the meat. It made a wonderfully, glazey sauce to pour over. It's not hard to make either, especially if you live in California (home to 1/3rd of all gooseberry species).
The next day, we put the leftovers (with all the sauce) into a soup pot, added about 1/4 C of acorn flour, 1/2 C of nettles, a chopped carrot, onion, and potato, and a couple cups of water, and simmered it for about an hour. Presto! Shank meat soup. I added some green walnut kechup (basically worchestershire sauce) and hot sauce (Tapatio) to mine. It was great.
We didn't take any pictures, by the way, because I didn't think I was going to post about dinner. However, with Hank's nudge, here I am...
Definitely try braising shanks some time. It's very easy, and a great confidence booster, because it comes out so darn good.