Quick Bite: Shanks a Lot!
Pork enthusiast Jason Houser calls attention to a lesser-known cut
The recent pork renaissance has inspired countless recipes utilizing the delicious, versatile pig, including bacon, sausages, and tenderloins, to name a few. But if you ask Jason Houser, owner of artisan butcher shop Meathouse, there’s one tasty cut that has gone unsung: shank. “You won’t find it packaged in the grocery store, which is most people’s meat comfort zone,” says Houser. “But it’s an inexpensive cut worth seeking out for its rich flavor.”
And this James Beard Award-nominated chef—who honed his skills in the kitchens of Charleston Grill and Muse—knows his pork. He and wife Katie debuted Meathouse at the Charleston Farmers Market last spring and have had patrons lining up ever since for the artisanal products he fabricates from Tamworth and Berkshire pigs from Bethel Trails Farm in Gray Court, South Carolina.
As for how to cook pork shank? “It’s a dense cut, so braising does a good job of keeping the meat juicy and tender,” says Houser. And it just so happens that his hearty recipe can be enjoyed immediately or refrigerated for up to three days. “I like the way the flavors develop when given time to meld,” he notes. And during the busy holiday season, a warm and yummy dish that’s also convenient is a true gift.
- 1 Tbs. fennel seed
- 1/4 lb. applewood smoked bacon, diced
- 2 pork shanks, about 6 lbs.
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup flour
- 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
- 2 ribs celery, diced large
- 2 carrots, cut into large half moons
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 cups tomato purée
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 250°F.
In a small ungreased skillet over high heat, toast fennel seeds, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes or until they are fragrant. Remove from pan, allow to cool, and place at the center of a coffee filter. Tie filter closed with kitchen twine.
In a large, oven-safe pot on stove, cook bacon over low heat until fat has rendered out into pot and bacon is crispy and brown. Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in pot. Raise temperature to medium.
Season shanks with salt and pepper, roll them in flour, and shake off excess. Brown on all sides in bacon fat. Remove shanks and add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about five minutes. Add red wine and reduce by half, about four minutes. Add rest of ingredients (including fennel package) and shanks.
Cover pot and place in oven for about three and a half hours. Using a fork, check to see if meat peels from bone easily. If still attached, continue to cook until meat falls off bone. Let meat cool in liquid for about 10 minutes. Use a ladle to skim fat off top of braising liquid and discard. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.
When ready to serve, place warm meat on a platter. Season liquid with salt and pepper. Discard fennel seeds and bay leaves. Sauce meat with braising liquid.