Of all my bear meat, the shanks were my most prized cut. So prized, in fact, I didn’t even entrust them to FedEx. On the boat, we removed the knuckles of each end of the bone and cut each shank in half. After they were frozen, I packed them in my checked luggage and personally carried them home.
(Traveler’s tip: Meat or game birds will stay (mostly) frozen on even long flights when wrapped in several layers of clothing and packed in your luggage. It’s a great way to bring small amoutns of meat home on a flight, provided it doesn’t put your bag over the ridiculously low 50 lb. limit.)
Due to the amount of sinew shanks are laced with, they need to be cooked low and slow via a braise. I wouldn’t typically consider braising to be the most summer-friendly of cooking techniques, but luckily it was cold and wet the week before Memorial Day. Perfect braising weather. If you don’t want to heat up your kitchen, you might wait until fall to try this recipe, which works just as well with venison shanks (or beef, if you must). Or adapt it for the grill or smoker.
Braised Bear Shanks
– Two bears shanks, cut into two pieces each.
– ¼ cup flour
– Kosher salt
– 2 tbs. vegetable oil
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 stalks celery, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– ¼ cup red wine
– 2-3 cups beef or game stock
– 1 cup sliced mushrooms
– Fresh thyme
– Preheat oven to 300°.
– Heat Dutch oven over med-high heat. When the pot is warm, add about 2 tbs. vegetable oil.
– Pat bear shanks with paper towels to dry. Liberally season them with salt and dust with flour.
– When oil is just to the point of smoking, add the bear shanks, in batches if necessary. Cook shanks for 3-6 minutes, turning every few minutes so each side gets nice and brown. Transfer shanks to plate and lower heat to medium.
– Dump onion, celery and garlic into the Dutch oven and stir. Cook until onions turn translucent. About 3-5 minutes. (I like to add another pinch or two of salt and lots of black pepper at this step too.)
– Deglaze the pot with a few glugs of red wine, scraping loose any tasty brown bits from the bottom. Simmer for a few minutes until the wine is reduced by half.
– Place bear shanks back in the Dutch oven and pour in stock until it reaches about halfway up the meat.
– Cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours, adding mushrooms and lots of fresh, cracked black pepper for the last 30-45 minutes.
(If the pan sauce is too thin, reduce it on the stovetop or add a slurry of 1 tbs. cornstarch and 1 tbs. water or stock and bring to a boil.)