Thrift never translates into bounty as readily as when a cheap cut of meat becomes a tender, rich, and satisfying supper. Shin is ideal for a ragu, as the meat falls apart easily with long slow cooking, and it pairs beautifully with pasta.
Ask your butcher to leave the bone in the shin. Failing that, add a pig's trotter to the mix. A morsel of marrow is a lovely thing, but in its absence the gelatinous nature of the trotter is a more than acceptable substitute, and will improve the texture of the ragu no end.
Pavel at How Not to Do a Food Blog was the inspiration for this dish. His recipe read like food porn, and I was hooked. And, I stole Helen Graves' (find her post at Food Stories) clever idea of perking up the finished dish with a gremolata.
Be adventurous with the aromatics. I've stuck to the usual suspects here, but you could try Stevie Parle's suggestion of allspice, fennel seeds, and star anise, or a stick or two of cinnamon/cassia bark, and a dried chilli. Or, Pavel's celery seed idea.
Shove any leftover meat into a salad wrap with avocado, cucumber and sour cream (for the hot heads, add a dollop of jamaican hot sauce); mix it with mashed potato and fry (for the gluttons, put a fried egg on top); turn it into a quesadilla filling with melted cheese and pickles. Or, simply spoon it on top of a steaming baked potato.
2 tbsp light olive oil
1.5 kg (3lb 5 oz) beef shin, thickly sliced into steaks (bone-in, if possible)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5 black peppercorns
Bouquet garni (sprig of thyme, sprig of rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 2 sage leaves)
2 large glasses of medium-bodied French or Italian red wine
500ml good quality beef or chicken stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
½ tsp grated nutmeg, and a generous handful of grated Parmesan, to serve
For the gremolata, mix together:
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- Pre-heat your oven to 130C (266F/Gas ½). Add the olive oil to a large heavy casserole dish and warm over a medium heat. Season the meat and fry it in batches (you want it to brown and caramelise, not steam). Remove the meat to a plate, and set aside.
- Add the vegetables, peppercorns, and herbs to the casserole dish. Turn down the heat, and sweat them gently for 10-15 minutes until soft but not coloured.
- Return the meat to the pan, and add the wine, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook in the oven for 4-5 hours (the longer the better). Check it every hour or so, to make sure it's not drying out. If it is, add a little water.
- Remove the meat from the sauce, and tear it apart with a fork and spoon (it should yield wilfully). If you'd like a gooier sauce, reduce it on the hob before returning the shredded meat to the dish. Remove the bouquet garni, and season to taste.
- Serve with a robust pasta, such as rigatoni or pappardelle, or gnocchi, and sprinkle with the gremolata, some Parmesan, and a touch of grated nutmeg.