Sunday, 29 September 2013

Braised Beef Shin

Been known to have guests weeping with pleasure.
Our most requested dish, braised beef shin is simple but laborious to prepare and needs a good five hours of cooking, plus another 30 minutes to make the port gravy, plus three hours to make a litre of good beef stock. No apologies: good food takes time. You're not that busy. Are you listening Masterchef? 
Ew!

Shin is a tough mother of a cut. It looks unattractive; a big piece of well worked muscle. There's a lot of sinew and cartilage, but there lies the magic. Cook it slowly and gently and you will persuade the gristle to melt, releasing flavour and lubricating the meat. The end result should be spoon-cuttable.

Allow about 300g per person. However, I wouldn't bother with anything much smaller than 2kg. It's one of those volume/surface area things. You need a decent bulk. It's a meat you can reheat (with possibly some improvement) anyway so none will waste.


You'll need a big heavy casserole dish with a lid. In a thin sheen of very hot veg oil brown the meat on all sides. This is for flavour and appearnce. All that stuff about sealing meat is impossible guff. Remove the meat and set aside. That's one of those recipe phrases isn't it? 'Set aside'... instead of what? Remove the meat and defenestrate?


Sweaty veg

Anyway: In a big knob (snarf) of butter sweat off the following:

coarsely chopped 3 carrots, 2 onions, 1 leek, 2 celery sticks, a clutch of thyme, a bay leaf. Actually, not that coarse,nothing bigger than 1cm say. You want some colour in the veg but no burn. This might take 30 minutes, maybe 45. Don't skimp. Now add a bottle of red wine. No need for Petrus but don't put in anything you wouldn't drink in a glass. Lots of crap mixed up doesn't make a non-crappy meal! Reduce the wine by half. Now add the meat. Fill with home-made beef stock to three quarters full. You could just use water but then, you could stay in bed all your life weeping at its pointlessness... I choose not to. Bring to the boil and place in the oven for at least five hours at 150°C (an hour more if it's a 3kg+ joint).Turn it at least once in the liquor to ensure juiciness. Once it's so soft you can easily fork it, either remove it from the oven or lower the heat and wait for guests.
Good beef stock.
Very good actually.
You think you can do better?
Yeah? Go on then.

While that's cooking, reduce a half bottle of port to a quarter of it's volume. If you can do this with some fresh rosemary stalks, so much the better.

About 30 mins before you want the meat, ladle off a good quantity of the cooking liquor which will now include much meatiness. Fine strain this and reduce. Season and add the port reduction to taste (probably most of it). If you like a sweet edge, also a spoonful of redcurrant jelly. I thicken the whole with beurre manis. This makes it glossy too, always good in a sauce. Season again. You'll prob want more salt. I use dark soy sauce instead for added colour too.



Porty, beefy goodness
I invariably serve the beef in clumps on a bed of wilted and buttered spinach or chard (as above). Beetroot puree is excellent with this. Perhaps some deeply roasted shallots? You'll also want a crisp but yielding carb: maybe glassy roast potatoes or a roast onion flecked polenta fried until golden. There's always the featherlight Yorkshire pudding of course. You could go noodles but you'll be no friend of mine.

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