Last week, when the rain went far beyond April showers, the aromas of a hearty stew simmering in the slow cooker seemed like the perfect antidote to the raw weather.
We shopped the meat counter for reasonably-priced beef and found that meaty beef shanks were priced better than some of the sale items. The bone doesn't count as edible meat but adds more flavor to the finished dish.
Beef shanks call for braising as the best cooking method because long, slow cooking tenderizes the meat. The shanks can be braised on top of the stove — use low heat to keep the cooking liquid at a gentle bubble and cook for a few hours. Better yet, let the slow cooker do the work. The crock pot will keep an even temperature as the shanks braise.
The shanks are done when the meat is almost falling off the bone. The braising liquid remains broth-like after cooking but can be thickened with a slurry made from a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water.
SLOW COOKER BEEF SHANKS
>>4 center-cut beef shanks, bone-in, about 2- to 2-1/2 pounds
>>Kosher salt and ground black pepper
>>1 medium red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
>>2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
>>4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
>>2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
>>2 ribs celery, thickly sliced
>>1 (10-ounce) package mushrooms, thickly sliced
>>1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
>>1/2 cup red wine
>>1 cup beef broth or water
>>2 bay leaves
>>1 teaspoon thyme
>>1 teaspoon tarragon
Season the beef shanks with salt and pepper. Layer vegetables in the slow cooker. Top with beef shanks. Add tomatoes, wine, beef broth and herbs. Set temperature to high and cook for 5 hours or until meat is tender. Serves 4.