I have spent many of my days this week in a hung-over haze. Feeling tired, not quite well, struggling through runs, praying for a nap. Each of these rough days, however, stemmed from a wonderful night. I have spent most evenings this week out drinking with friends: watching football, catching up with old coworkers, celebrating a birthday, and meeting up with friends who are visiting New York. It has been a whirlwind of late night train rides and booze and fried food, but has been worth every rough morning wake-up call.
It definitely makes for a busy time of year, but I love how during the holidays we reach out to those we love and care for, making a point to spend time with one another. There’s always that sense that it will be a while ‘til we can hang out again, which I think is somehow a holdover from our school days when winter break felt like an eternity. Each meet-up just adds another recharge to my soul, filling me to the brim with love. The laughter and intelligent conversation fill me with light to get me through the shorter, darker days of mid-winter. After last Friday and the terrible events in Newtown, these meetings meant even more. (I’m still unable to really talk about the whole thing so will leave it there for today.)
Wishing you all a very happy holidays—hope they are filled with love, family, friends, laughter, hugs. If you are in need of a little holiday meal inspiration (which I always feel warrants something fancy, but don’t want to work terribly hard on since there’s so much else to do), I offer up this braised beef shank. It is rich with the sauce created by wine and the marrow, super tender, and is brightened up with a hit from the gremolata to finish the dish. Don't let the long list of ingredients get to you--after the chopping of the vegetables there isn't much else to do but sit and wait for the braise to do its work.
Braised Beef Shank
1.5 lb. beef shank steak
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 sprigs of thyme
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB anchovy paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c. white wine
3/4 c. beef stock
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
Pat the beef shank dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle with a generous quantity of salt and pepper.
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat with the olive oil until just before it starts to smoke. Add the shank and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shank steak to a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are just slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute or so. Then add the tomato paste and anchovy paste and stir for about one minute. Add the bay leaf, white wine, beef stock and the shank back to the pan and bring the liquids to a boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low to allow the liquids to simmer. Allow the meat to braise until it is fork tender, probably at least 1 1/2 hours. When the meat has finished cooking, remove to a deep serving platter to rest for a few minutes and turn the heat back up to medium high on the liquids in the pan. You just want to boil them for 6-8 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. Then pour the cooking liquid and vegetables over top of the shank steak on the platter.
While the liquid is reducing, mix together the parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl. Serve this over top of the braised beef shank. The beef shank is best served with something starchy that can help soak up the delicious juices, like smashed potatoes or risotto.