It's winter time and as the cold weather comes in there's nothing quite as warming as braised meat. Lesser cuts are perfect for braising because they're typically tough and have a lot of connective tissue, which renders into rich meat and sauce. And quite frankly, one of the best lesser cuts to braise is the shank.
The shank is the lower leg of the animal. Hind shanks are typically meatier and more flavorful. If you go to the butcher and ask for a hind shank, he'll know you know what you're doing.
The shank take hours to cook. Low and slow, so all of that connective tissue releases its gelatin into your sauce and makes it lush and rich.
And while it takes a long time, braising is really quite simple.
Start with a dice of mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) some herbage like bay and thyme, liquid (enough to cover about three quarters of the meat) like a combination of wine and stock, salt, pepper, cover, heat.
I was looking to braise something a few weeks back on a cold, wet Saturday. I wondered into The Butcher and the Larder and stared into the case looking for a suitable lesser cut. Just then, Rob comes out of the walk-in carrying a whole goat. "Whatcha looking for?" he asked.
"I dunno, something to braise."
Quickly he suggested "How about a couple of hind shanks?"
He qucikly cut them off the back legs of the animal, trimmed them on the band saw, wrapped them, and sent me on my merry way.
Like I said above, mirepoix, herbs, wine, stock, salt, pepper, cover, 325 degree oven for 3 hours and serve with some mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and top with some reduced braising liquid and chopped parsley and mint.
It'll warm your soul on a cold winter's night.