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Beef Shanks Aren’t Just For Soup

Bits of meat clinging to a bull’s-eye bone in the center? If you didn’t have a dog or a craving for soup, you’d most likely overlook beef shank cross cuts in your supermarket meat case.


When the meat is simmered in a flavorful broth, it is as tender and delicious as other cuts that cost twice as much. And as for that prominent bone, it’s chock-full of buttery marrow, as much a delicacy as truffle paste.

If you like lamb shanks, you’ll love beef shanks, sold as thick slices, each equalling a serving. The secret is in the cooking liquid. It has to be seasoned enough to stand up to two or three hours of simmering. It should be intense, but not overpowering, or the marrow won’t retain its sweetness.

The following recipe starts with a base of tomatoes, oregano, garlic and onion, adds the Southwestern punch of chili powder and ends with a dash of lemon juice to perk up the taste.

To serve, prepare Cilantro-Flecked Orzo or rice and arrange a beef shank and plenty of sauce over it. Eat the marrow plain or spread it over a warm flour tortilla.

Southwestern Beef Shanks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 beef shanks (1-1/2 pounds total)

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon chili powder (preferably chamayo, chipolte or other smoky pepper)

1 cup beef broth

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed oregano

1 bay leaf

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Cilantro-Flecked Orzo (recipe follows) or cooked rice

Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until transparent, about 5 minutes. Push to the side.

Dust beef shanks on both sides with flour. Add to skillet and brown on both sides over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes per side. Add chili powder and cook 30 seconds. Add beef broth and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits.

Add tomatoes, oregano and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 2 hours or until meat is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and simmer 5 minutes longer for flavors to blend. Remove bay leaf.

To serve, spoon orzo onto each of 2 plates. Top with beef shank and pan sauce. Add a spoon for scooping out shank marrow. Serve hot.

Yield: 2 servings.

Cilantro-Flecked Orzo

1 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)


1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Freshly ground white pepper

Cook orzo in 2 quarts boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Toss orzo with lemon peel and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: 2 servings.

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