Typically, when I post a recipe, I begin with a picture showing the subject food plated for service. Today, however, I am braising Beef Shank for later use in other preparations, a few of which will be illustrated a little further on. As I mentioned in my introductory post, this particular cut requires a long slow cooking in moist heat. The specific braising method I am using here is essentially the Chinese method known as ‘Red Cooking’… or braising in a seasoned, soy sauce flavored medium. In this case, however, I have modified the process somewhat to allow for a more versatile use of the finished product …
- 3lb Beef Shank;
- 8 – 10 Garlic Cloves;
- 3” knob of Ginger, sliced into several pieces;
- 2 medium Carrots, sliced;
- 2 – 3 stalks Celery (leaves included);
- 2 Scallions;
- ½ cup Soy Sauce;
- ½ cup Rice Wine;
- 1 cup White Wine;
- 1 Tbsp. White Peppercorns;
- 1 Tbsp. Sugar.
The main differences between this and more traditional Chinese recipes for red-cooking are that I have replaced a good deal of the soy and rice wine with western white wine, omitted many of the more aromatic spices such as star anise and cinnamon, and cut down the amount of sugar. The finished cut can still easily be used for Chinese secondary uses, but could also be readily adapted to western recipes as well.
This is the shank I will be using. As we will see shortly, I will actually be taking it apart into two pieces for the actual braising as this will make it fit the pot better and reduce the amount of water need to keep it covered during cooking.
The seasoning vegetables are shown in the above picture. There is no particular magic in the way the various items are cut but it is a good idea, once you have peeled your garlic, to give each clove a decent whack with the flat of your knife blade so as to help them release their flavor during cooking.
As usual in Red Cooking, the meats are first blanched in boiling salted water before braising in order to remove blood and other impurities and help keep the braising medium ‘clean’. For a cut of this size, the total blanching time is about 7 or 8 minutes but, in this case, I have pre-blanched the whole piece and then taken it out after 4 minutes to break it down into two separate pieces. You can see that I have taken the joint apart by separating one muscle group away from the other, which remains attached to the bone. Afterwards, I continued blanching for a few more minutes. Unlike vegetables, or small pieces of meat, it is not necessary to plunge the shank into cold water to stop cooking but you should wash the pieces well before continuing.
To braise, put the celery and some of the carrots onto the bottom of your pot and place the meat on top before adding the remaining vegetables. Pour over the soy sauce, rice wine and white wine, then add the peppercorns and sugar. Finally, pour over enough water so that the meat is completely submerged (about 8 cups or so).
Turn the heat to medium and bring the liquid in the pot to just below the boiling point. Immediately, turn the heat to very low and allow everything to simmer very, very gently for about 4 to 4 and one half hours. Do not let the contents boil and top up with more water if needed. At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the braising liquid. As you can see from the first picture, the meat will be nicely cooked and the gelatinous tendon and sinews clearly visible.
Once the meat is removed you can strain the broth and either use it again to braise other meats, or else reduce it to use as a dipping sauce as I have done here. For top quality sauce, you will probably wish to filter it through cloth to remove any small ‘bits’.
There are many ways to use the meat and one of the simplest is to slice it and serve with a little of the reduced braising liquid brushed over as a glaze. This can be served hot, warm, or even cold. A number of Chinese appetizer dishes feature very thinly sliced shank and I’ll be looking at one of these in a future post…
Braised beef shank keeps very nicely and the trimmings, especially the tendon rich bits, can be added to soup, or noodle dishes.
One rather novel use of red braised beef shank was served to me at a restaurant in Halifax under the name ‘Chinese Beef Burger’. This one was made with Naan bread and the condiment was sweet bean paste and was very good indeed. I like the idea of sandwiches made with the shank and I plan to use some of this batch in that way. In my sandwiches, though, I plan to use regular buns and some Wasabi mayonnaise …