…but not just yet. This wasn’t cooked on our fun new bbq (which I put together, if I may brag for a moment, and it TOTALLY WORKS) but in a pot on the stove. But leave aside your obvious disappointment about that and recognize that I’ve now cooked with… beef shanks! Life’s exciting when there are so many different parts of a cow that you can eat!
This is a perfect meal for what I think of as “practice nights,” because that’s what they are, but in your life they might be something else – the kind of evening where someone’s going to be coming home late but hungry. It cooks for a long time and only gets better the longer you have to leave it going.
This recipe came from The Unorthodox Epicure, and I made a few changes out of necessity and a couple out of personal preference. First of all, I thought I had about half a bag of dried ancho chiles left, but it turns out I just had one, so I decided to mix it up a little and use that along with a couple guajillo chiles, and then add an extra chipotle and a little dollop of the adobo sauce in which it came, basically because I felt like it (and because I had this mistaken idea that anchos involved smoking, and they don’t, they’re just dried). I also cut the salt in half because I wasn’t convinced about it needing 2 tablespoons – and before you argue that, well, this makes a LOT, you’re not wrong but I’d made vegetable stock earlier in the day in the same pot, so the same amount, and I felt pretty satisfied with that, so it seemed weird to need more here. I feel like I made the right choice. Maybe my parents’ weird and sudden saltphobia actually did rub off on me a little.
Chile-Braised Beef Shanks
1 dried ancho chile
2 dried guajillo chiles
2 cups water
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 chipotles in adobo, seeded unless you want more heat
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cumin
4 cups stock, beef or vegetable
5 beef shanks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp flour
Put the dried peppers in a pot full of water and bring it to a boil.
Turn it down to a simmer and leave it for 10 minutes.
Take out the peppers – reserve the water – and stem and seed them. I find this is easier to do after they’ve soaked.
Put them in a blender with the 2 cups of water, the onion, garlic, chipotles, a couple spoonfuls of the adobo sauce they came in, why not, the oregano, salt, brown sugar, and cumin.
Puree this all into soup.
Heat your oil in a big pot over medium-high heat.
Working in batches if need be (and you have a seriously large pot if you don’t need to!), brown your beef shanks on each side, removing and setting aside afterwards. They’re going to braise later, so don’t worry about cooking them through, just get a nice sear on the outside.
If there’s about a couple of tablespoons worth of grease in the pot, proceed, otherwise add a little oil.
Whisk in the flour for about 20 seconds.
Stir in the contents of your blender.
Pour in the stock.
Pop the shanks back into the pot and turn it down to medium-low.
Cover partly and leave alone for about 2 hours.
I also just realized you weren’t supposed to put all the water in the blender – but you know what? It’s fine, it’s supposed to be thin, and you’d have to add the water back in if it was insufficiently thin anyway. So be cool and just throw the water in.
Pro tip: shred the leftover meat (store it separately from the sauce) and put it, and maybe some sauce too, in a burrito! Oh maaaannn.