Eating Nose to Tail

During the Halloween season nose to tail eating gets a few choice moments in the sun.  Food TV seems to trot out heads, tongues and trotters at the same time as they whip out the cotton cob webs and witch hats.  Eating all the less desired bits of animals conjures something sinister in many minds, as if there is something unnatural about happily munching on pig tails, chicken feet and liver.

For the last year I've been writing a couple recipe columns for SeriousEats, and in honour of Halloween I thought I'd post a few links to the more nose to tail inspired posts that the benevolent Editors in SE headquarters have let me sneak through.
Some bloody, tasty chicken insides.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween, filled with many delicious, scary meals.
Braised lamb shanks are a favorite comfort food of mine.  A well cooked shank is tender and succulent, never tough or dry.  Normally when braising I reach for my dried mushrooms and a bottle of red wine, this time I thought I'd try something different.
Lamb shanks.
I had one kinda sad looking eggplant in my fridge, and some fenugreek in my spice cabinet.  Eggplant as not something I really wanted to braise, so I gave them a good coating of salt and let them drain, hoping to remove some of the bitterness that's  present in eggplants.

Braising a lamb shank is like braising anything else.  Give it a good sear followed by some solid cooking liquid and you're  guaranteed favorable results.

I seared the shanks, then added some diced onion and cloves of garlic to the pan.  Always remember to scrape up the leftover bits of meat after searing.  That's the good stuff.

The braising liquid I used was stock, seasoned with fenugreek, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne.  The liquid goes over the shanks and onion/garlic mix, then in the oven at 325 degrees for an hour or two.
After 2 hours in the oven.
When the shanks are fork tender I removed them, then strained and reduced the cooking liquid.  By this time the eggplant were looking wilted  and wet from the salt - I dried them with paper towel and seared  in them in olive oil until golden.
When the cooking liquid looked thick enough the shanks went back in to warm up.  Then it was dinner.  Lamb shanks on top of rice with toasted almonds.  My sauteed eggplant ended up being more of a garnish on top - but were nice and crisp with a little sweetness.
Bones worth sucking on.
My favorite part of lamb shanks is once you've finished the meat, the bones still have little gelatinous bits of tendon clinging to them.  Knives and forks don't really work, so you just need to pick it up and knaw on it.  Lamb shanks always make me feel like a seriously classy caveman.

Yesterday I cooked a beef shank; it was a really nice looking piece of meat with a nice big bone that promised some marrow.  I love shanks, they're a really great cut of meat to braise.  Which is really the only way I know of to cook them (I'm open to suggestions though.)  Lamb shanks are what I normally think of when craving this cut, so it was nice to see a different kind of meat.  I don't really have a plan for the meat when it's done, maybe shred it for a filing in some ravioli, maybe tear it into nice big chunks and make a hash with it this weekend. 

Nice lookin' bone.
The idea is to braise it in a bottle of IPA with just a few handfuls of diced onions, some salt and some cracked black pepper.  If I keep the flavours simple then I can fit this meat into a larger variety of dishes.  I started by searing the shank on both sides in a braising dish then took it out and let it rest while I cooked the onions until translucent and just taking on some colour.  I used olive oil, but a combo of olive oil and butter for the searing would be even better.
Searing shank.
Once the onions are just right the shank goes back in with a bottle of beer poured on top.
Bubbling in beer.
Once everything is at a nice simmer put the lid on your braising dish and stick it in a 325 degree oven.  This shank took about 2 1/2 hours, you'll know when it's tender and you can easily stick a knife in it.

Because there really isn't a plan for this shank I'm just going to let it cool in the braising dish, then stick it in the fridge.  Maybe  I'll  make shredded beef taco's for dinner tonight, or even thin out the cooking juices with some stock and use the beef to make a nice rich beef and barley stew.
Either way the beef is very tender and very beefy, the cooking juices have bone marrow melted through to make a very hearty, if very bitter stock.  Both elements have the opportunity to be turned into something yummy, the hard part is deciding what.