Shanks, if you butcher your own meat you know this cut well. You are never quite sure what to do with them. They are full of tendons and serious hard muscle tissue, so we often just throw them in the grind pile for burger. These same characteristics make them ideal for slow cooking, and they are loaded with flavor. You can use any type of wild game with this recipe, and if you could try some lamb shanks if desired. This savory recipe will warm you up on a cold day and bring back fond memories of the hunt.
- 4 venison shanks
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (split)
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 stalks celery diced
- 4 large carrots diced
- 1 pound white mushrooms sliced thickly
- 7 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
- 1 can low sodium beef broth (14 oz.)
- 1 bottle red wine (Syrah or Zinfandel)
- 1 tsp dried thyme (or 5 fresh sprigs)
- 4 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. You will need to use a large enameled cast iron casserole or heavy pot that is oven proof. A Dutch oven will work perfectly also. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pot over medium high heat on the stove top. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and brown in the oil. Do them two at a time and brown for 3-4 minutes per side, turning them to brown on all sides. Transfer them to a tray when they are done.
Add a splash or two of wine to the pot and scrape the brown bits that have stuck to the bottom (called fond). They will detach and add great flavor to the sauce. Now add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, along with the onion, celery, and carrots. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté another 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Pour yourself a large glass of wine and add the remaining wine (about a half bottle) to the pot. Drink some of the wine and stir the pot until well combined. Mix in the thyme and bay leaves, add the shanks back in and bury them in the liquid. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Allow to braise at least 3 hours or more until the meat is tender.
Serve these with mashed potatoes, a French baguette, and a fresh garden salad.
Another bottle of California Syrah or a jammy Zinfandel would complement this meal perfectly. If your tastes prefer beer, try a porter or a stout with this dish.