Have you ever thought twice when a significant other offered to cook dinner for you? Not because they're not a good cook, but because you knew it was going to take so long that you might be having two dinners the following day? One just past mid-night and again later that evening.
My husband, Keefer, is an ambitious cutie-potuttie. Like anyone who is reading this blog, he has tremendous passion for good food and exploring new cuisine. Between a hectic schedule of business meetings and travel, Stewart enjoys experimenting with new recipes. He looks forward to accomplishing these tedious, multi-step ecipes that require hours of simmering; and at the end of it, he typically earns every ounce of accolade for his culinary skills. This past weekend he decided to make braised pork shanks over white beans from a Williams Sonoma recipe.
Neither one of us had experience cooking with pork shanks, but fortunately we were able to pick up this cut from Flying Pigs, a local farm in upstate New York that raises four heritage breeds: Large Blacks, Gloucestershire, Old Spots, and Tamworths. If you are in New York City, you can find Flying Pigs at the Union Square Farmers' market on Fridays and Saturdays.
Stewart started this recipe rather late around 6pm and because the recipe estimates roughly 30 of minutes prep. time in addition to 3 hours of cooking, we planned to sit down for dinner around 9:30pm. From my experience, it always takes longer, especially if you are trying a new recipe. Even Rachael Ray's 30-minute meals don't pan out in the allotted time for me. But this was built into expectations.
So I was not a surprised when we ended up having dinner at 11:30pm. While I didn't mind, I wouldn't say it was easy. In the last half hour, the aromas from the savory vegetable and pork broth were so enticing that my mind was completely enveloped with what it would taste like. When the pork shanks finally did arrive on my plate, I was treated to an amazing tender, succulent and sumptuous fall-off-the-bone experience. The pork shanks, which maintains much of the pork skin is very similar to a ham hock, only with more flesh to sink your teeth into. The pork skin keeps the meat moist, while adding an exquisite soft and gelatinous texture.
So if you have the time and patience or a cutie-potuttie who likes to cook these meticulous dishes, this may be a winner for you!
BRAISED PORK SHANKS OVER WHITE BEANS
(adapted from Williams Sonoma)
- 4 fresh pork hanks, roughly 1 1/2 to 2 lb each
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups cooked white beans
- Season the pork shanks with salt and pepper. Dredge the shanks in the flour, shaking off the excess.
- In a large braiser over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until just smoking. Add the shanks and brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, the 1/4 cup parsley and the thyme and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the broth and wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the shanks to the pan, cover and transfer to the oven. Heat the oven to 375°F. Cook, turning the shanks occasionally, until the meat is fork-tender and almost falls off the bone, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- Skim the fat off the braising liquid, set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cooked beans, mashing some of them into the sauce. Garnish the shanks with parsley and serve immediately with the beans and braising juices.