Here’s an unusual dish for our friend Zach, who commented that it was not yet “cold enough” down in sunny California to make the pork with apples and calvados recipe we posted last week. We feel for you Zach. Perhaps the coconut and avocado that give this braised beef shank a distinctly tropical flair will be a bit more appropriate for you and any other readers who are blessed with a persistently sunny climate.
This unusual braise came from Daniel Boulud’s book, Braise. As is the case with some other recipes in this book, the list of ingredients is long, but technically, it is extremely easy to prepare. It should be noted that beef shank like this comes with a generous supply of marrow. The word on the street is that Queen Victoria ate marrow every day, and although she died fat, she also died old. And if Anthony Bourdain gets his way, marrow will be his last meal. You owe it to yourself to try; we both have and we lived to fight another day. Spoon it out and spread it on some crusty bread if the idea of airplaning it straight into your mouth is not appealing.
Boulud’s book is filled with intriguing flavor combinations such as these. If you are looking to get beyond the typical (but classic for a reason) braises like Ossobuco and Coq au Vin, this is certainly a fine place to start.
For those of you who can no longer get fresh tomatoes in your local area without resorting to the flavorless green-picked ones in your supermarket, you’re better off substituting some quality whole canned tomatoes, roughly chopped. If you cannot find slab bacon, you can substitute sliced bacon. Also, we halved this recipe, using only two small shanks when we made it, and it turned out great.
As a side note, we’ve updated our About page with some photos of our little houseboat family.
Beef Shank with Coconut and Avocado
Adapted from Braise
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¾ cup sherry vinegar
- 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 6 lbs beef shank, each tied tightly with kitchen string
- coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (14 oz) slab of bacon: 12 oz cut into 8 chunks; 2 oz cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger root, grated or minced
- 6 cups beef stock, or water
- 1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
- 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- peeled zest of 3 oranges, ½ orange reserved for serving
- 2 sprigs fresh marjoram
- 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 6 sprigs fresh italian parsley leaves
- 1 lime, halved, for serving
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the raisins, remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the raisins plump up in the hot water. Drain the raisins and combine them with the sherry vinegar. Let sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, combine the red pepper flakes, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds and rub the beef with this spice mixture and salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes. (You can also prepare this the day before and keep it in the refrigerator until needed).
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 300 ̊F. Warm the olive oil in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and bacon chunks and sear the beef on all sides until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the beef and bacon to a plate, leaving the fat in the pot.
Add the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and ginger root and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar-and-raisin mixture and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the beef stock, coconut milk, tomatoes, orange zest, and marjoram. Stir to combine, then return the beef and bacon to the pot and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven to braise until the meat is tender, about 4½ hours, turning the meat two or three times. If the sauce is too thin, or is not flavored intensely enough, ladle most of it off into another pot and simmer it until it thickens and intensifies. In our experience, this reduction has been necessary. Then add it back to the first pot. Add the reserved shank bones to the braise and let cook for 5 to 6 minutes, just until the marrow has softened and is warm.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the remaining 2 ounces of bacon until its fat is rendered. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the coconut, avocados, peanuts, parsley, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and toss until everything is warm, 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve: Remove the beef from the pot, untie, and cut into serving pieces. Transfer the beef to shallow bowls and add the sauce, vegetables, and marrow bones. Sprinkle the avocado-peanut mixture around the beef and squeeze some orange and lime juice on top.
Serves 4 to 6