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Veal shank comes from just below the knee of a calf and is prepared in a variety of ways. Although veal is generally the tenderest form of beef, the shank has a reputation for being tougher than other veal cuts. Preparing cuts like the shank by way of long, slow, and moist methods tenderizes the meat and results in a wide array of popular dishes. Due to its toughness, most chefs recommend avoiding preparing veal cuts with methods that involve dry heat such as barbecuing, grilling, or frying.
Braising is one of the easiest ways of preparing veal, as it allows the meat to cook at low temperatures for several hours inside a seasoned liquid bath. This type of low and slow cooking allows the fat content along with tough connective tissue such as collagen and elastin to melt into the meat, resulting in enhanced tenderness. Osso buco, a traditional Italian dish featuring less-tender veal cuts along with wine, tomatoes, and vegetables, is a popular braising recipe for veal shank. The process begins by browning the meat in a dutch oven, adding each additional ingredient and simmering on top of the stove until done. There are many variations of osso buco, each requiring the dish to simmer and cook on low for at least two or three hours to achieve the desired level of tenderness.
Another effective way to prepare veal shank is the simple process of stewing, which also benefits from long, slow simmering. Using either a slow cooker or a large Dutch oven, pre-browned veal is stewed slowly in a meat broth for the better part of a day until tender. This method is a flexible way of preparing veal, as any number of ingredients can go into the pot along with the meat. Veal stew with root vegetables is a popular dish as is a simple slow-cooked pot roast with roux-thickened gravy. Flouring and browning the meat before stewing will lock in flavor and prevent juice from escaping.
In general, any moist preparation method that allows veal shank to cook slowly at low temperatures will yield good results. In addition to stewing and braising, the shank can also be marinated and cooked inside its own liquid in the oven. Placing veal, herbs, and water in an oven-proof plastic bag and baking for two or more hours results in a tender veal roast with gravy. Optionally, substitute the water with red wine or meat broth and add vegetables to the bag to make a complete veal shank meal.
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