Simple. Rustic. Unpretentious. Stews like this are, for me, the epitome of home cooking. Imagine serving this to your family for dinner on a cold night. It will warm your heart to see them mopping up the thick, bright and flavorful sauce with bread. And you’ll smile when they ask for seconds.
Is a slow cooker necessary? No, but it is convenient. I prefer it when cooking bone-in shank because there’s very little agitation in the slow cooker which means the marrow is less likely to escape from its enclosure and boil into the cooking liquid.
Who wants that to happen, right? The point of choosing bone-in beef shank is to be able to scoop out the marrow and enjoy it in its perfect purity.
It starts with browning the beef shanks (just look at all that bone marrow!) in olive oil both for flavor and texture. While the browning happens, the bottom of the slow cooker is lined with onion slices. That’s to make sure that the meat won’t stick to the cooker.
Broth, not water, is poured in. Why broth? For a richer sauce. Seriously, broth instead of water when cooking stew makes a world of difference. We only resort to water when we run out of broth which is not very often.
When the meat is tender, the shanks are scooped out very carefully so that the marrow does not fall off and break. Of course it is possible to put the marrow back into the bone but that’s very sanitary, is it? The mere idea makes me cringe.
With the meat done, the vegetables are cooked. First, they are browned in a little olive oil. Browning again? Well, it’s the same with browning meat. The natural sugars caramelize during this stage and that adds plenty of flavor.
Tomato sauce is poured in and the vegetables cook in the sauce over low heat. When the vegetables are done, the beef — torn into bite-size pieces — and the bones are added. The simmering continues until the meat is heated through.
Beef shank and bone marrow stew
- Slow cooker
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.2 kilograms cross-cut bone-in beef shank - preferably cut into thick slices
- 1 large onion - peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic - peeled and lightly pounded
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 4 cups bone broth
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 200 grams baby potatoes - rinsed, wiped dry and cut into halves
- 200 grams carrot - peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
- 200 grams bell peppers - deseeded and diced
- 12 pitted olives - halved
- 2 tablespoons capers - in brine, well drained
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 pinches sugar
Brown the beef shank
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.
- Lay the beef shank slices in a single layer and leave for a few minutes to brown the undersides. Flip to brown the opposite sides.
Slow cook the beef shank
- Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the onion slices and arrange the browned beef shank on top.
- Add the garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
- Pour in the broth and add salt (how much depends on how well seasoned the broth is).
- Set the slow cooker on HIGH and cook the beef for two hours. Turn down the cooker to LOW and cook for another four hours or until the beef is fork tender.
- Scoop out the beef and transfer to a plate.
Brown the vegetables
- Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a pan and lightly brown the potatoes, carrot and bell peppers.
- Stir in the olives and capers.
- Pour in the tomato sauce and a cup of the beef cooking liquid. Sprinkle in salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
- Break up the beef into fairly large chunks and add to the vegetables in the pan.
- Cover and simmer until the potatoes and carrot cubes are tender, and the meat is heated through.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Drop in the bones with the marrow carefully and simmer for another minute to heat through.
- Serve your beef shank and bone marrow stew with crusty bread, rice or pasta.