Braised veal shanks with white beans
Elements of two classic comfort foods combine in satisfying braised veal shanks with white beans.
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Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the veal shanks dry with paper towels and tie them with kitchen twine around the outside. Season generously with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Set aside. In a cold Dutch oven large enough to hold shanks in a single layer, drizzle a little canola oil and add bacon strips. Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, turning frequently. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.Skip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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Working in batches, brown shanks on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium-low. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from Dutch oven and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add shallots and carrots. Cook until shallots are beginning to soften, stirring frequently to avoid burning, three to four minutes. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary to pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
Add tomatoes, wine and 1 cup of chicken broth and scrape up any browned bits. Crumble in the cooked bacon. Season with pepper, but no salt at this point. Nestle shanks into pot, adding any accumulated juices. Add second cup of broth. Shanks should be about 2/3 submerged in liquid. Add a little water if more liquid is needed (or cut back on broth if you don’t need it all). Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover Dutch oven and transfer to the oven.
Braise shanks for 2 hours, until meat is completely tender, checking every 30 minutes to see if additional liquid is needed. If so, add water; adding more broth could make it too salty – and too brothy.
Meanwhile, toast bread crumbs. I used Japanese panko – it tends to be lighter and crunchier than other bread crumbs, and the toasted crumbs tend to maintain their crispiness even when sprinkled over cooked foods. But feel free to use whatever white bread or bread crumbs you have on hand.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low flame. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat with oil. Toast until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes. Watch closely – they will remain stubbornly pale for a while and then suddenly turn brown. Don’t burn them. Transfer to a shallow bowl or plate and allow to cool completely. You can toast the bread crumbs a day ahead and, after they’re cooled, store at room temperature in an airtight container.
When shanks are just about done, drain and rinse the beans. Set aside one cup of beans. Transfer Dutch oven to stovetop and turn off the oven. Transfer shanks to a platter and tent with foil. Return to oven to keep them warm.
Discard bay leaves. Add beans (all but the one cup you’ve reserved) to Dutch oven and heat over medium flame. Using a hand masher, mash the reserved beans in a pot or sturdy bowl until smooth, adding a little braising liquid to make it easier. Add mashed beans to Dutch oven and stir to combine. If braising liquid is thin, raise heat to medium-high and thicken slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings – chances are, you won’t need to add salt.
Divide bean/braising liquid mixture among four shallow bowls and top with bread crumbs. Place a shank in the middle of each bowl, removing string. Serve.
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