Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris is famous for turning butcher cuts into delicious 3-Michelin star quality dishes. And man oh man do the French love offal and game. Nothing goes to waste. And why should it?
During my employment at Guy Savoy we used proteins that I had never previously seen before in the United States let alone cooked: wild hare, baby boar, grouse, wild pigeon, pheasant, starlings, kidneys, sweet breads, brains, duck tongue, cow tongue, pig knuckles, and tripe just to name a few of the more unusual.
Yes, we really did cook duck tongue once.
The flavors of this dish border on Italian with the rich red wine tomato beef sauce and creamy rosemary polenta. But considering we served it at Guy Savoy, a restaurant very proud of it's French heritage, I'll have to guess that maybe some where in history the Italians donated this recipe.
Catherine de Medicci peut-être? Hmmmmm….. maybe not.
Most of us don't need to feed a family of 6 or I'd suggest shocking your butcher with a request for a whole shank. Two 3" shank cross sections will easily feed two people although the result is a dish resembling osso bucco. Which, in my opinion, is not necessarily a bad thing. Beef shank or shin is a cut taken from the front lower leg of a steer.
The connective tissue is very tough so it is commonly braised or slow cooked to tenderize the meat. This is a picture of a more manageable cross section for the home cook…
Here's the best part of beef shin or shank (call it what you will) it only costs $4.99 a pound! No here's the best thing about beef shank: you can put it in the oven and pretty much forget about it for an hour! Then you can check it and forget about it for another hour! Okay, here's the best, best thing: you can scoop out the marrow as it cooks and eat it all by yourself. Justification? You slaved over it for 2 hours why should you have to share! Enough said, recession cooking couldn't get tastier.
Braised Beef Shank with Rosemary Polenta
1 3/4's – 2 lbs beef shank (2 slices across the bone, approximately 3"'s thick)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry red wine (with extra to add if desired)
3 cups beef stock
1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Kitchen string (optional, depends how picky you are about shape)
Salt and freshly groung pepper
1 cup polenta
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
1 Tablepoon minced rosemary
Instructions Preheat oven to 325˚F. Make incisions into the thick connective tissue that surrounds the leg meat. This tissue will tighten during cooking and push the meat out of it's circular form. In order to keep the shape tie 2 pieces of kitchen string around the shank. Season beef shanks generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large oven proof pot. Sear the shank on all sides. Add the onions, shallots, carrots and continue to sauté until onions are softened.
Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the beef stock until it just covers the meat. Add all the sauce from the can of the peeled tomatoes and 4 of the tomatoes. Break apart the tomatoes with a spoon. Add the herbs. When the braising liquid is simmering, place in the oven uncovered. Check every half hour and turn the shanks over after 1 hour (scooping out the marrow and eating it yourself!).
If the braising liquid is reducing to quickly you can either add more stock and red wine or place a lid on it. The meat should be covered on the sides at all times. After approximately 2 hours the meat should be tender. Remove shanks and keep warm. Strain the braising liquid in a chinois pressing hard against all the vegetables with a ladle or wooden spoon. Scrape the bottom of the chinois and make sure to add all those puréed vegetables – that's half the flavor! Return braising liquid to the pot and reduce until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the shanks back to the pot and keep on low heat while making rosemary polenta.
Polenta: Heat water to a boil in a medium sauce pot. Add polenta, turn down heat to medium-low, and whisk. After the polenta has absorbed the water, add milk cup by cup. Continue to gently whisk. Add minced rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes, whisking, or until polenta no longer has a crunchy texture. Add in parmesan and season with salt and pepper. If necessary add more milk to keep it creamy.