Why You Should Braise Veal Shanks Now

Braised Veal Shanks

© Shutterstock

Braised Veal Shanks

Braised Veal Shanks

© Shutterstock

There are days when you don't even want to subject your dog to the weather outside – let alone yourself. Then it's a good idea to put a hearty piece of meat in the oven, put your feet up and indulge in the art of braising. This requires one thing first and foremost: patience and the joy of idleness. There is nothing more to do than wait and occasionally baste the stew with the braising juices. 

It is not the tender noble cuts that braise to divine temptation in the casserole, but the supposedly less noble cuts, in which the connective tissue and, yes, even the fat plays an important role in the big picture. Most importantly, of course, are the bones. Particularly in the case of meat from comparatively young animals, lamb or veal, the collagen contained in the bone is such that it dissolves during slow braising and knows how to infuse the surrounding meat and the sauce, with juice and strength. Braised meat on the bone is simply in a league of its own.

The veal shank, i.e. that part of the animal that makes up the knuckle of beef – and is thus reserved for the popular goulash – becomes a roast of aristocratic finesse in the braising pot. The Bavarians know this; there, the veal shank is revered as a proud festive roast and an icon of national self-image. In Tuscany, where the good meal was famously invented (and from there exported to the French royal court via Catherine de Medici), they know this too. In Austria, on the other hand, the shanks are traditionally de-boned prior to being braised as Kalbsvögerl. This is also very good – but as a festive topping for a table, these pieces, which sometimes tend to be dry, are not so good. It is a very special quality when the meat almost falls off the bone after a long, tender braising and the connective tissue and legs have been able to give it all their strength. 

You may need to go to a specialist for a whole veal shank. You are unlikely to find them in the local supermarket – your trusted butcher is the address where meat is still sold on the bone. The butcher also knows where to saw off the bone in such a way that the marrow is exposed and the tendons are cut in such a way that the knuckle gets that deliciously enticing appearance after roasting, with a good piece of marrow bone sticking out. Thus, after vigorous searing and all the more gentle braising, you will be able to serve up a magnificent roast and put the British saying to the test: "The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat". Good luck!

Recipe: Slow-cooked Veal Shanks in Chianti


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