Thursday, January 20, 2011

Portuguese Braised Beef Shanks or "The dog was happy"


Sometimes on the weekend when Dr. Food and I are bored we play a game called "Lets go to Whole Foods and Forage for our Dinner". This weekend was completely the type of weekend where you feel bored and yet you don't want to get up and go into the snow and cold and rain and well...the crappy weather that is typical around these parts.


I had started "No Knead Bread" the night before. It had been a long time since I made it and I thought it would be good for a cold weekend. I love the smell of the bread as it is baking as well as the yeasty smell when it is just hanging out in my kitchen.


So, perusing the meat section I saw these tasty morsels. They are beef shanks. I had never had them before and I thought they might be interesting. Not only that but they didn't cost an arm and a leg as most of the other stuff at "Whole Foods (Whole paycheck as others like to call it). Our task was to find something to do with it. NO problem.


A little pancetta goes in this. No not MINE. MY pancetta is curing away in the refrig. All 6 lbs of it. That reminds me I need to go flip the little cutie pie over.

So, I found a recipe online that looked interesting and I wanted to try it. It was Portuguese Braised Beef Shanks. Luckily enough we had most of the ingredients in the house and only had to run to the grocery store one more time. This recipe combines lots of taste together but they all blend perfectly.


Once again, I wasn't so much into the pictures as I was the cooking. Ugly picture though. Sorry about that. I really need my own personal photographer to come take pictures (ok, doesn't count that my own son is a photographer because he lives in L.A. and not only that he NEVER will take a picture of ANYTHING that I want. However, when he is famous I will so be going to something important with him...EVAN? right? right? Ok, I know for a fact that you don't read this blog because if you did I would be in SO much trouble for writing this. Uh oh...Annie, Mommy loves you...don't tell on me ok? Us "GIRLS?" need to stick together. Argh...


Dr Food wanted to make this cauliflower souffle. Um, I am afraid to show the cheesy goodness because everyone will groan and tell me that we don't eat healthy enough. BUT this was the ONLY unhealthy dinner we had all week. Why is it that I am talking to my family in my blogpost? Could be that I think they are the only ones that read this. Then again, I don't think they read it either. So why? I crack myself up and it is for my own amusement. THAT is healthy.


SO bread out of the oven! HA! this is a good picture isn't it? Too yellow? Not enough light? Shut up...


Cheesy cauliflower.

Arteries: Janis, you shouldn't be eating this kind of stuff
Me: Shut up
Arteries: Don't tell ME to shut up. I am just telling you that you need to eat fiber.
Me: I know I know

So, last night I made one of our normal dinners (the other days of this week were too boring to even mention...shrimp, chicken...and NOTHING fancy)


MOM! Look. Garbanzo's and Black Beans . Look here


GROUND TURKEY and red peppers and green onions. Pfft. Wrap it up in a tortilla and throw LOW FAT cheese on it and call it dinner. Healthy dinner. Boring dinner. Weight Watcher recipe dinner. Happy now?


p.s. Oh, the reason the dog was happy is she got a big bone from that beef shank. She was a little disappointed that the marrrow had melted away but she still got the bone. Uh, where is the picture? Damn.

Portuguese Braised Beef Shanks
adapted from recipe found on Whats Cooking In America by Karen Calanchini

1 teaspoon mixed color peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
6 ounces thin-sliced pancetta, cut into cubes
4 (about 3 1/2 pounds total) thick center-cut beef shanks (I had mine cut 1-inch thick)
Coarse salt or sea salt and freshly-ground mixed color pepper
Olive oil, if needed
2 large yellow onions, medium chopped
6 to 8 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 1/2 cups beef stock
2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoon dark molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 dried Guajillo chile pepper*
1 dried Arbol chile pepper*

* Chiles de arbol or arbol chile (ARE-bowl) are narrow, curved chiles that start out green and mature to a 3-inch to 5-inch bright red pod. The arbol chile is very hot, and related to cayenne pepper. These chiles register around 50,000-65,000 on the scoville heat unit scale (or about 7-8 on a 1-10 scale). These chile peppers are found Mexican Food Stores and in most hispanic food sections of grocery stores. If you can't find arbol or guamillo chile peppers, substitute dried cayenne chile peppers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position oven rack in lower third of oven.

Place the peppercorns, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves into a cheesecloth pouch; tie securely and set aside.

How make a cheesecloth pouch: Cut a piece of cheesecloth approximately 8 inches by 8 inches. Place your spices and/or herbs in the middle of the cheesecloth. Crush them slightly to release their flavors. Tie the cheesecloth shut with kitchen or cotton twine. Leave the tie long enough so that you can remove the cheesecloth easily.

Heat a large oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-low heat until hot. Add the pancetta cubes and sizzle to render the fat and crisp up. When crispy, remove with a slotted spoon to a folded paper towel; set aside.

Place the beef shanks into the hot rendered fat. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of each beef shank and sear until very brown (this step gives the dish more flavor). Turn the beef shanks and sear the other side. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the browned side. Once both sides are well seared, remove the beef shanks to a plate; set aside.

Lower heat to low (if the pot is dry, add a little olive oil). Add the onions, stirring until they begin to release their water. Using your spatula, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and stir into the onions. Sauté the onions until softened. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 1 minute.

Add the beef stock, wine, molasses, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Turn off the heat, add the prepared pancetta, beef shanks, and any accumulated juices to the pot. Nestle the cheesecloth spice pouch and the chile peppers in the pot. Cover and braise the beef in the oven, for approximately 4 hours, turning once and using a spoon, scoop up the juices and the onions and pour over the top of the shanks. Meat should be falling off the bone when done.

Remove from oven and transfer the beef shanks to a serving platter, along with the bones (the marrow in the bone is excellent and some people love to eat it). Remove the cheesecloth spice pouch and peppers (unless you want to eat the peppers).

At this point, the juice may be reduced, if necessary, by cooking over high heat to the obtain the consistency or thickness you desire. Skim fat from the top, taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Divided meat and bones (with marrow) onto 4 plates and ladle the sauce on top.

Printable Version

The Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin was from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Fantastic book! You can find this recipe at Leite's Culinaria


  1. I'll go foraging with you any day! This meal is amazing!

  2. Hey Janis, even though I'm no gourmet-level cook, disinclined to try recipes that require more than, say, two ingredients (OK, three if you count salt) and minimum prep (boil it now, sucker) it is a joy to read Bite. It's not unlike my delight when reading a good journalist's commentary on some topic about which I know little. Not only does it increase my knowledge, but also provides the fun of conversation with the writer. And you are a terrific writer to converse with. Brava, and greet Dr Food for me.

  3. Your beef shanks were absolutely gorgeous; before and after. Wow, I loved the marbledness of them. I'm in love the gratin without even seeing what's in it. There's nothing wrong with cheesy goodness once in a while. We need to get our dairy somehow, correct?

  4. Great recipe, photos and I'm sure taste was amazing, fantastic job:)
    I made beef recipe myself, if you are interested take a look

  5. What a delicious looking meal. I still need to make that no knead bread... nom!

  6. Those shanks look positively delicious! That's exactly the kind of slow-braised meat dish I crave in wintertime.
    Not sure what's all that Portuguese about this dish, mind you, but who cares as long as they taste good? :) (My grandmother would faint at a Portuguese dish made with Mexican chiles!)

  7. This sounds amazing! However, pancetta, molasses and mexican chillies don't exist in Portuguese cuisine. Definitely not a Portuguese recipe.

  8. This is a recipe I posted on What's Cooking America.  It is indeed a Portuguese recipe - I simply added the mexican chili peppers, because I enjoy cooking with peppers.  Why not?  It added an extra level of  comcomplexity to the fl

  9. I loved it! Thanks for checking in.

  10. Quinoa Calanchini 8June 18, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    If you will note, the recipe says "adapted" which means I added my own twist to it, mainly for some eye popping color and a bit of complexity in the layers of flavor.