Jim Poris - September 2010
Time once again for a little intrigue as three chefs figure out what to make of beef shin and a load of other ingredients they claim is too many. They squirm.
It's osso buco, but beef rather than veal. To some it's called beef shin. To others, beef shank. To almost all it's de rigueur for simmering into a fortifying soup base to ward off the furies of winter (depending on where you spend your winter). But there's a case for fishing it out of the soup pot to put it to use in loftier dishes. That's what we had in mind when we hit Beau MacMillan (Elements, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, Paradise Valley, AZ), Randy Evans (Haven, Houston), and Brandon Sharp (Solbar, Solage Calistoga, Calistoga, CA) with a whole bone-in beef shin and a bunch of other Mystery Basket ingredients and told them to go have fun and call back in the morning. Any morning. And like the excellent chefs they are, they each came up with a dish worthy of a place on their menu. This mystery always reveals itself in the end.
As usual with Mystery Basket the chefs harrumphed, complained, puzzled, procrastinated, saw flashes of light, and then dealt with an ingredient list that included a whole bone-in beef shin; salt and pepper; garlic; white onions; red wine; cornichons; milk; whole salted anchovies; celery; eggs; fresh or dried porcini; salt pork; carrots with tops on; olive oil; Idaho russet potatoes; artichokes; mascarpone; harissa; plum tomatoes; oranges; Sherry vinegar; all-purpose flour; Savoy cabbage; and dark ale. Chefs made use of no more than six of the following herbs and spices: bay leaves; mint; marjoram; cilantro; saffron; rosemary; thyme; sage; mustard seeds; juniper berries; parsley; tarragon; basil; hot or sweet paprika; coriander seeds; cloves; nutmeg; and savory.
"Cool, I said to myself when I first heard I'd been tabbed for Mystery Basket. I've always loved this section of Food Arts. I'd read through the section and think, ‘Man, a whole hog. How easy is that!' But after I opened the assignment e-mail and read ‘bone-in beef shin,' my first thought was ‘what the hell is beef shin?' I've heard of shin guards for soccer players, but I know for a fact that cattle don't play soccer. Here in the U.S.—or at least in Texas—my meat guys had never heard of whole beef shin. And neither had I. So after much Web surfing, I found that in the United Kingdom and Australia they call what I call beef shank, beef shin. So Food Arts must be operated by a bunch of expats. [Editor's Note: Wanna see our passports?]
"After I finally figured out what the mystery meat truly was, I could move on to attack the other ingredients, a long list is all I have to say. I guess my style of less is more would have to be thrown out for a more elaborate preparation. The ingredients kept pulling me toward the Mediterranean. So I printed the e-mail, went to my sous Kevin Naderi, who is Persian, and got some great ideas, all Mediterranean. Then it dawned on me that the other two chefs doing this might go the same way. So I decided to forego the Mediterranean route for a more classic preparation with a twist. I started by eliminating the obvious, then building the dish one ingredient at a time. I actually knocked out the recipe pretty quickly after that. Writing this turned out to be more daunting, since I'm more of a math and science guy and writing creatively is not my thing. So I did what most people do when they're confronted with a difficult task—I put it off until the last minute. And wouldn't you know, something always happens when I really need to stop and focus on an assignment, like my farmer runs out of arugula, or an oil spill kills off my oyster source, or one of my cooks lands in jail and we have to fill in on his station for a week. I love this business!"
Confit of beef shin, roasted bone marrow, porcini/thyme spaetzle, red wine beef jus. "Start by boning the beef shin, being careful to leave the meat intact. Portion the meat into eight-ounce medallions, securing each with twine. Place each medallion in a vacuum-sealable plastic bag with peppercorns, juniper berries, bay leaf, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, orange zest, and olive oil; vacuum seal each bag; cook in a water bath 36 hours, maintaining the water temperature at 129 degrees with an immersion circulator.
"Meanwhile, use a meat saw to cut the knuckle off the shin bone and split the shin bone lengthwise. [I don't have a band saw so I used a pair of pliers to hold the bone and cut it with a reciprocating saw with a fine tooth blade.] Roast knuckle bone in a 450 degree oven along with mirepoix of carrots, celery, and white onions plus crushed tomatoes until caramelized. Make a stock with the roasted knuckle bone, mirepoix, tomato, red wine, and a sachet of parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns; simmer overnight; strain twice through a cheesecloth lined chinois; bring to a simmer; season with salt and Sherry vinegar; remove from heat; reserve.
"Make spaetzle dough with two cups milk, two eggs, two and one-half cups all-purpose flour, the pulp of one jumbo baked Idaho russet potato, one teaspoon chopped thyme, and salt and pepper; allow the dough to rest; push through perforated hotel pan insert set over a hotel pan of salted boiling water; remove with a spider; shock in ice water; pat dry with paper towels; toss in a bowl with olive oil.
"To prepare the vegetables for the spaetzle: turn trimmed baby artichokes; blanch in orange juice acidulated water; remove from the pot; cut in half; reserve. Sauté a brunoise of mirepoix, garlic, sliced porcini, and blanched halved artichoke hearts in olive oil; add spaetzle; season with salt and pepper; reserve. Roast split marrow bone in a 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until marrow is soft and begins to pull away from the bone; season with salt and pepper.
"To serve, remove cooked boneless beef shin from the bags; season with salt; sear in a hot iron skillet on both sides until caramelized; place vegetable spaetzle in the bottom of a bowl; top with beef shin, garnish with split marrow bone and red wine jus. Having done a bunch of wine dinners with Don Wallace of Dry Creek Vineyards, I'd say the Endeavor Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 would drink real well with this."
Elements, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
Paradise Valley, Arizona
"Beef Shin, beef shin, beef shin. For the love of God, have I ever cooked beef shin before? At first, I was excited that I was asked to take on the Mystery Basket. But after reading through all the ingredients I could work with, I realized it would be way more of a challenge than I had expected. Trying to use as many as required in a dish you'd like to attach your name to took a bit of time and thought. The first people I called were my friends at Snake River Farms, distributors of American Kobe beef. When I told them I needed beef shin, they had to identify it as well. After two shipments, I got the product I was looking for. Hope you enjoy what I came up with."
Braised beef shin "Benedict." Trim a whole beef shin, cutting away the silver skin; season generously with salt and pepper; dust with all-purpose flour. Heat a half cup olive oil in a rondeau set over high heat; sear the shin on all sides; remove the shin. Reduce heat to medium; add a rough chop of two white onions, two stalks celery, eight cloves garlic, three tomatoes, and three peeled carrots with tops; sweat five minutes; place the shin back in the rondeau; deglaze with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon red wine and three bottles of dark ale; add four sprigs each of thyme and parsley and two bay leaves; bring to a boil, skimming as necessary; cover; reduce heat to low; braise six hours until extremely tender. Remove beef shin; pick meat from the bone; place in a bowl; reduce braising liquid and aromatics to a sauce-like consistency; puree in a food processor; press through a tamis; add one cup puree to shredded beef shin; add two cups mascarpone and one cup chopped cornichons; season lightly with salt and pepper. Place a good amount of the beef shin mixture on top of a sheet of plastic wrap; roll tightly to form a two-inch wide cylinder, tying it off at each end; refrigerate overnight to set.
"Wash, peel, and roughly chop two Idaho russet potatoes; place in food processor with a chopped small white onion, three-quarters cup all-purpose flour, one egg, one sprig rosemary, salt, and pepper; pulse into a grainy potato pancake batter. For the sauce, reduce one ounce each of Sherry vinegar and orange juice by 50 percent; whisk in remaining braising liquid puree; strain through a chinois. Pick leaves from one bunch fresh parsley and three sprigs tarragon; place in a small bowl; segment one small orange, reserving any juice; add to the bowl with fresh herbs; add four sliced cornichons; dress with extra-virgin olive oil.
"Remove firm beef shin from the refrigerator; remove plastic wrap; slice into one-inch disks; dust lightly with dried porcini ground into a powder. Heat olive oil in a cast-iron pan; spread batter in the pan to form thin two-and-a-half-inch round potato pancakes until golden brown on each side; remove from the pan; place on paper towels to drain; add beef shin disks; sauté until brown on each side; remove from the pan; place on paper towels to drain. For each serving, poach two organic eggs, making sure to keep the yolks soft. To serve, place two potato pancakes in the center of a plate; top with beef shin followed by poached eggs and sauce; garnish with herb salad. As for what to drink with this dish—hello, Sunday brunch—I thought I'd turn that over to the fastest shaker in the West, Jason Asher, our awesome mixologist at Elements' Jade Bar. Here he is:"
Asher: "Why stop at one drink possibility to accompany Beau's Mystery Basket dish when you can do three. Not saying anyone should order all three—just suggesting. The first, a blood orange/fennel Margarita is one of my signatures. This cocktail has a wonderful acidic level that cuts the richness of the dish. I use a lot of herbs and spices at Jade Bar. Here, the blood orange complemented by fennel brings out the tarragon in Beau's salad. Make a fennel/agave syrup by simmering one cup lightly toasted fennel seeds in two cups agave nectar and one cup water for 40 minutes; add two teaspoons anise extract; cool. For the drink, shake one ounce syrup, one ounce blood orange juice, two ounces Tesoro reposado, and one-half ounce lime juice with ice; strain into a Martini glass; garnish with one disk dried blood orange.
"My inspiration for the next drink—No. 2 Boston shandy—is from another amazing drink from Boston created in the late 1800s, a Ward 8. Once again the acidic levels are kept high, to help cut the richness of this brunch dish. Shake 1 1/2 ounces 100 proof Rittenhouse rye whiskey, three-quarters ounce lemon juice, and one ounce simple syrup with ice; add four ounces Sam Adams lager; strain over fresh ice into a Collins-style glass; drizzle with house-made grenadine; garnish with a lemon rind rose and tarragon sprig.
"The last one, another high acidic drink, I call No. 3 Bloody Mary, made with horseradish-infused vodka—a house specialty made by macerating one cup peeled and diced horseradish in a bottle of vodka for four hours and then straining. For the Bloody Mary mix, blend one-half cup pearl onions, two cloves garlic, one-half cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, one-quarter cup horseradish, five cups tomato juice, one-quarter cup Cholula hot sauce, and one-quarter cup Sherry vinegar. To finish, mix two ounces infused vodka and four ounces Bloody Mary mix with cubed ice in a tall Collins glass; garnish with maple lacquered bacon."
Solbar, Solage Calistoga
"No no, I think it's my phone. I just want to make sure I heard you correctly: you did say beef shin, right? As in bone-in beef shank?
"Conventional culinary wisdom says to pick a killer ingredient and then build a dish around it. No chef I know would, by choice, begin with beef shin. Choice, however, is not a factor in this exercise (late of my ‘Sounds Like Fun' list, new to my ‘WTFIT?' list), because the beef shin is prescribed, as are 29 other ingredients. It's a free country, but not when you work with Food Arts on Mystery Basket.
"So, I rested my elbows on a clean cutting board and stared down at a whole bone-in beef shin. My sous chefs buzzed around me, butchering, braising, offering ideas. A take on matambre [South American stuffed flank steak]? Pot-au-feu? Sausage? Beef sugo with pappardelle? Beef/porcini lasagna? A freakin' burger? All the while they were probably wondering when I'd get some real work done. The beef shin gave up nothing, even when menaced with a razor-sharp boning knife. I stuck the thing in the freezer—like my girlfriend [and wife-to-be] did in graduate school with books that drove her crazy—and forgot about it for a couple of weeks.
"In his book Ma Gastronomie, the great French chef Fernand Point reminds us that ‘each day you must start again from zero, with nothing on the stove,' a sentiment this exercise exhibits in high-def. Of course, Point began his typical workday reclined in a chaise lounge, goldfinches chirping around him, sipping away at the morning's first magnum of Champagne while enjoying a close shave by the local barber. No help there.
"Working in Napa Valley, I often compose our event menus after tasting through the portfolio of one winery or winemaker, and by now I know enough about wine to know that I'll never know enough about wine. Champagnes, red Burgundies, steel-fermented Chardonnays—these generally suit my palate, although I seldom have the chance to create menus around them because, well, said wines are French. Cue light bulb—even if only 25 watts. Item No. 5 on the list of approved ingredients: red wine. I'm sure Food Arts wants me to use the bottle of Alain Hudelot-Noëllat Vosne-Romanée Les Beaumonts 2004 I tried to drain at Gordon Ramsay last year while my then-pregnant wife asked the waiter: ‘Another sip won't hurt him, right?' So if not that ‘modest' Burgundy, how about a red wine to faire chabrol—the French practice of gulping a wine swirled around a just-emptied bowl of soup or stew. Licking the bowl is out, faire chabrol is in, probably because it sounds better in French."
Beef shin/artichoke agnolotti à la chasseur et faire chabrol. "Day One: You will need two bottles of a good Burgundy red wine for this. The Leroy Bourgogne 2007 will do. Remove the beef shin meat from the bone; cut it into four large pieces; layer in a deep casserole with carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and savory. Pour one bottle of wine into a saucepot set over high heat; ignite to burn off the alcohol; once the flame dies, remove from heat; cool to room temperature; pour over the meat and aromatics; marinate overnight.
"Using a hacksaw or band saw, cut the shin bone into one-inch cross sections; roast in a 400 degree oven until browned; remove; cool. Meanwhile, caramelize a mixture of large-dice carrots and white onion in a film of olive oil; add two chopped plum tomatoes; cook to a deep, reddish brown. Place the roasted bones, caramelized vegetables, a split head of garlic, and a handful of fresh thyme in a single layer in a saucepot and add cold water to cover; set over low heat; simmer, controlling the heat so it bubbles just once every second or so; cook six hours, skimming as needed; strain the stock through a chinois and refrigerate overnight.
"Pare four 24-count artichokes, removing the choke; drop into olive oil poured to a depth of one inch in a small saucepot; add a few crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme, an ounce or so of chunked salt pork, and a few grinds of black pepper; bring to a simmer; turn heat down to very low; cook until artichoke hearts are very tender; cool in the oil; remove the artichokes; refrigerate.
"Make a pasta dough with whole eggs, egg yolks, all-purpose flour, water, a splash of milk, and a splash of olive oil; envelop with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
"Blanch, shock, and peel six plum tomatoes; cut into petals; place on half hotel pan; cover with olive oil; sprinkle with salt; top with a few thyme sprigs and fresh garlic cloves; place in an oven heated by the pilot light to dry overnight.
"Day Two: Tomatoes should be tender and bright red. Remove from the oven and drain on paper towels.
"Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the beef shin from the marinade; pat dry with paper towels; strain the vegetables from the wine; pour wine into a small saucepot; bring to a boil; reduce heat to low; simmer, skimming as needed. Heat two large sautoirs set over a high flame; add a thick film of olive oil to each; caramelize the mirepoix from the marinade in one and sear the beef shin pieces in the other. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer. Once the beef is browned, place the pieces in a casserole just big enough to fit it, filling in gaps with the caramelized mirepoix; using three parts stock to one part wine, add enough of the liquids to almost cover the meat; set over medium heat; bring to a simmer; cover with a paper cartouche cut to fit; braise in the oven three hours or until meat is just tender and not dry; remove from oven; cool in the braising liquid until almost down to room temperature. Lift the warm meat out of the liquid; pass through a food mill set over a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Strain the liquid through a chinois into a saucepan set over medium heat; simmer until slightly reduced, skimming off the fat; remove from heat; season; keep warm.
"In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the cooked artichokes and a half cup or so of mascarpone; process until smooth; fold into the beef; season with orange zest and a few drops of Sherry vinegar; chill; place in a pastry bag with a #6 plain tip. Roll out the pasta dough until it's nearly transparent; pipe a continuous bead of the beef/artichoke farce down the middle of the dough for its entire length; fold the bottom half up to meet the top; run a thumb the length of the bead to seal, removing any air; pinch at three-quarter-inch intervals to create pockets of farce; using a pasta wheel, cut the dough its entire length a half-inch on either side of the bead of farce; cut individual agnolotti by running the wheel through the spaces of plain dough between the pockets of farce; place the agnolotti on floured parchment paper; refrigerate until ready to cook.
"Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Open the second bottle of Burgundy; fill six shot glasses with the wine; place them on the dinner table (or by the sink if you have to wash dishes later on). Heat a grill or grill pan on high; cut four medium-large fresh porcini into large quarter-inch-thick slices; brush with olive oil; season with salt; grill until just cooked through. Bring the liquid to a simmer; cook the agnolotti in the boiling water until just done; remove with a spider. Arrange the tomato confit, porcini, and agnolotti in six large pasta bowls; garnish with fresh thyme leaves and a chiffonade of parsley; pour the hot liquid over the pasta at the table. When there is nothing left in the bowls, put in a little more liquid, add the shot glass of Burgundy, swirl around, and slurp away. Faire charbol!"