I’ve worked with beef shanks once before, and it wasn’t pretty. The finished product was delicious, but I never thought I’d go near them again. The stress of prepping it outweighed the awesome finished product. That recipe called for boneless shanks that you just cut into pieces to braise. I couldn’t find a boneless shank, only a whole piece of shank with the bone. That I then had to trim and get off the bone. The membrane around the shank is so tough and slimy, it was really unpleasant for someone who had no idea what she was doing.

This recipe, from Anya Fernald in the January ’13 Food and Wine, seemed really promising from the start. You didn’t need to cube the shanks, just get bone-in shanks that were cut into 2″ steaks, for lack of a better word. And, luckily, Whole Foods had sliced shank rather than an entire piece of shank. The recipe says “trimmed” shanks, but I just left them on–I knew the membrane would just peel off easily after braising, so I didn’t even deal with it raw. And that’s exactly what it did.

Her recipe was served over polenta, but for us fresh fettuccine (couldn’t find any pappardelle) was perfection. And this recipe made a huge batch, enough to freeze 5 more servings of this for the future. It was such a gloriously thick ragu that by the time it cooled enough to portion and freeze I could slice it like a pie. I braised it the night before and served it the next day, so I just added a little more wine to reheat the portion. I put it in a covered saucepan for a couple of minutes on medium heat and it came right back. This. Was. Amazing. A great addition to my sauce making days.

Beef Shank Sauce (from the January 2013 Food and Wine magazine)
Makes 10 cups of sauce

5 pounds trimmed beef shanks, cut 2 inches thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups dry red wine
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
Cooked polenta or pasta, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°. Season the shanks with salt and pepper.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add half of the shanks to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining shanks.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the casserole. Add the onions, celery, carrots and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are very soft and golden, 15 minutes.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil.

Return the shanks and any accumulated juices to the casserole.

Cover and braise in the oven for 3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the shanks to a plate and let cool slightly.

**I also skimmed a whole lot of fat off the top of the sauce. I don’t know if this is because I didn’t trim the beef, or if this was the marrow that melted into the sauce, but I’d rather skim fat than trim the shanks. This is what my sauce looked like out of the oven, the whole top layer is fat:

Bright red. And then after I started skimming fat off:

Using 2 forks, shred the meat and scrape out marrow from the bones.

Add the meat and marrow to the sauce and rewarm over moderately low heat.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper and serve with polenta or pasta.