Sunday, March 3, 2013

Braised Beef Shanks and Barley Risotto

It was a couple of weeks ago when we viewed a PBS cooking show.  They featured braised lamb shanks with a barley risotto.  Looked delicious.  Copied the recipes and put them aside knowing we would get to them shortly.

Saturday night was the night.  We made a few changes though.  Instead of lamb shanks, which we love, we found fantastic beef shanks at Whole Foods and substituted.  This show went back to when Julia Child had Chef Joachim Splichal cook in her kitchen.  Honestly, I do not think substituting the beef for the lamb was in error.  The smell of this fantastic sauce braising the meat was outstanding.  But the topper of the whole meal was the barley risotto.  Barley was a brave substitute, but I sincerely loved it.    You will find that the barley tends to remain chewy.   Though it does get tender as rice would,  you need to be prepared for the chewy texture which I thought was wonderful.

Braised Beef Shanks with adjustments per Schnitzel's Kitchen

2-3 large beef shanks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For flavoring the braise:

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium leek trimmed, quartered and washed, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled
4 large cloves garlic, shopped
unsalted butter

6 ripe plum tomatoes, unpeeled, halved and quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 springs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper the shanks, dredge in flour, pat off excess.  Set Dutch oven over moderately high heat.  When hot, swirl in enough butter to film bottom of pan.  As butter foam subsides, lay in shanks and saute, turning often with tongs until all pieces are browned on all sides.  Remove from heat and set shanks on side dish.  Leave a film of fat in the pot to cook vegetables.  Return to burner over moderate heat.  Stir in onion, leek, carrots, celery, shallot and garlic into pot.  Add more butter if necessary.  Saute, stirring frequently for several minutes until lightly browned.  Stir in tomatoes.  Raise heat to moderately high, add thyme and bay leaf and cook 4 more minutes, stirring frequently until vegetables are softened and tomatoes render juices.  Return shanks to pot.  Pour on stock and wine.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover and set in preheated 350 degree oven.  Shanks are done when meat is tender if pierced with a fork and can be pulled cleanly away from the bone.  This will take approximately 2 hours.

Remove the shanks to a side dish, covering with foil to keep warm.  I just acquired an immersion blender, so this was the first time using it.  It reduced the chunky vegetables beautifully and thickened the sauce nicely.  Then set this braising liquid/sauce over high heat and reduce by half.  I had no fat to discard off the top.  Lamb would probably by a lot fattier.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Just before serving,m swirl butter in the sauce and return to shanks to the sauce to cover.

Creamy Barley Risotto

4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 cup pearled barley (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for serving
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a simmer over moderately high heat.  Reduce to low and keep warm.

In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the barley and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed.  Continue adding the stock 1/3 cup at a time and stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions.

The risotto is done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with the sale and pepper.  Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.

The barley will be much chewier than rice in this risotto, but I loved the earthy taste and thought that next time I would add some rehydrated wild mushrooms to add more earthiness to the flavor.  I will definitely make this again.  It was perfect with the beef shanks and sauce.

In 2003, we were in Italy, Tuscany, and stopped at the Felsina winery.  It was a delightful old winery which produces Chianti Classico wines and olive oil.  It's been a favorite of ours since that tasting way back then.  It just seems that the Chianti Classico's made from the Sangiovese grape are made specifically for wonderful Italian dishes.  This 2006 bottling, which is rated 90 by Wine Spectator,  is described as having "lavender and blackberry aromas followed through to a medium to full body with a solid core of fruit and a tangy aftertaste of citrus fruit and dried cherry."

Do you see The Trout's wine glass?  We love the large, long stemmed glasses, but while sipping and cooking in the kitchen, we have broken several.  We just recently ordered one for each of us, with our names and a cluster of grapes engraved on them, and are so pleased with the quality of these glasses.  I would recommend this business.  If interested in seeing what they offer, go to Tom's Glass Works.  


  1. Mother Nature has brought winter roaring back at least for a few more days....And it is meals like this one that provides real soul comfort. It is a beautiful meal and served up with glass of chianti, well that makes it even better.


    P.S. I am going to check out Tom's Glass Works. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. A hearty and comforting meal. I must get some barley to try the risotto. Totally yum!

  3. This sounds really good, Susan! I love barley and like finding good recipes using it. Thanks!

  4. That is a fine looking plate of food, especially with all the gravy.

  5. I love barley but I do not use it often, not sure why not. Will try this recipe out. Thanks. have a good week Diane

  6. This is my kind of meal! I love these slowly braised meat dishes and the barley risotto sounds perfect as a side to soak up that sauce! Yum, Susan! Winner dinner!

  7. I have never used beef shanks for anything other than soup, so your recipe really caught my attention. I have to try this, Susan. The braise and the barley sound like they are made for each other. I must try this. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  8. What a gorgeous looking meal! Love the wine glasses... will check out the site.

  9. Hi Susan, I must admit I am not a Lamb lover (well, to eat anyway) so You had me when you said you substituted beef. I LOVE BARLEY so I am going to try this recipe soon.

  10. I MUST eat a full meal before reading your blog, I think. Otherwise, the delicious recipes and description make me feel starvation is imminent.This really sounds wonderful.

  11. What a beautiful dish. I love lamb shank...but I think beef works just fine as you said and it's easier for me to get in the market than lamb. :) I love the chewiness from the barley. Can't wait to try this recipe too.

  12. What a wonderful meal Susan- From the beef shanks to the wine selection. This is the kind of meals we like to do on a Saturday night. Love the wine glasses too. Will check out the site. Beautiful Provencal table cloth also.

  13. I've never made beef shanks, Susan. We love lamb shanks though. Going to Whole Foods this afternoon, so will check.
    Aside from barley soup, we rarely make anything with barley. I watched Jamie Oliver make a barley side dish once and wondered why I never tried that. Thanks for the recipe...barley is delicious and good for us.
    (I've got a set of those long stemmed delicate wine glasses...scares me even to wash them by hand! Good site to visit. Wasn't familiar with it.)

  14. What a magnificent, hearty meal. The stew sounds fantastic, but the barley risotto has really piqued my interest...chewy is a plus in my book!

  15. This is a meal fit for a king (or queen)!! Sounds absolutely delicious, Susan. Seems like short ribs would be good done this way, too. Oh, I'm drooling on my keyboard at the thought. LOL! Beautiful wine glass. I hope it stays intact!! Thank you for sharing the recipe and the link. blessings ~ tanna

  16. I've recently had farro risotto and I'd love to try barley risotto too. It sounds like a perfect pairing for this wonderful beef shanks.

  17. Oh my Susan, this looks amazing! What a delightful combination of flavors and textures. I can only imagine the delicious aroma!

  18. i can smell it from here. and it's delicious

  19. Oh dear, I would swear I left a comment on this post, but guess I was dreaming. Just another little senior moment. We are very fond of barley and I have never prepared it as a risotto. What a hearty and satisfying dish, Susan. I'll check for beef shanks next time I'm at Whole Foods. Just made a lamb stew so will enjoy the beef.

  20. You know it looks good but just having got up from finishing dinner it loses it's appeal for the moment!!