I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Braised Beef Shank

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
serves 2-3

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Sangria

Christmas music is spinning on the record player (perhaps "A Very She and Him Christmas"), the "fireside candle" is lit, ornaments are scattered across the coffee table. We have assembled the faux tree that may look a little sad but has been adorned in our apartment every year that we have lived together. Vegetables and bread are chopped and cubed and lined up on platters next to the fondue pot that gets pulled out at this time every year and is of course filled with cheesy goodness. With a cocktail in hand we toast to our favorite of holiday traditions, the decorating of the Christmas tree.

I love that every year we make a point to make a night of it, indulging our inner children. Remembering where and when each ornament came from. Taking breaks to nibble on the food spread. Stepping back to admire the work so far and to decide which parts of the tree are lacking proper distribution. When finished all of the lights in the apartment get turned out to appreciate the work we just lovingly completed. Then we usually cuddle up to watch a Christmas movie (often Love Actually because I just can't get enough of it).

The drink is usually one made to really get us in the spirit of the holidays: eggnog, mulled wine, or spiked hot cocoa. This year, however, we changed things up a bit with a new take on sangria that is perfect for entertaining this time of year. It has some similar flavors as the mulled wine but apple cider lends a light note that helps it to be easier to drink more than one glass, which makes it perfect for a signature cocktail at your holiday gathering. I didn't have an orange on hand to create my version but added it here because I think it can add even more delicious notes to an already tasty blend of flavors.

Holiday Sangria
about 8 glasses
1 bottle of red wine
1 apple, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 orange, sliced (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
1 (22 oz.) bottle of hard apple cider

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, apple, cranberries, orange and cinnamon stick. Refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Just before serving stir in the apple cider. Serve in wine glasses.