shutterstock_317483012Apologies for the long hiatus while I welcomed my newest son to the family. 2:00 AM feedings are a great time for culinary dreamin’, so let’s jump in.

A brazen love of braising

Braising is the best! This slow-cook method delivers plenty of flavor, but doesn’t require a lot of babysitting. (See what I did there? Babysitting. New daddy. Sort of funny, no?)

At its simplest, a braise is simply simmering a piece of meat in a liquid over low heat for an extended amount of time. For the cook, braises provide lots of room for creatively combining acids and aromatics to make soul-warming meals.

Let’s get cooking!

Start with a good quality beef shank steak.

The shank is the leg of an animal and runs from the knee to the ankle. For larger animals like cows, the shank is often cut on a cross section, which we call a shank steak here. Look for a piece that’s between 2-3 inches thick.

A word on sourcing: while grocery stores are convenient, the best quality meats will be found at your local butcher. It is difficult to judge the quality of a piece of meat that’s sandwiched between styrofoam and cling wrap. Your butcher will let you see the piece you’re buying so you know what you’re getting. They’ll also be able to tell you where the animal was raised and when it came into the shop.

The quality of your ingredients will determine the quality of your dish. Besides, it’s good to support local businesses. Visit your butcher every week!

Brown on both sides over medium high heat.

Add about a cup of port wine to deglaze the pan and boil down for a few minutes. Add about a cup of water, plus bay leaves and several stems of thyme.

Reduce heat to low. Add the juice and zest from a blood orange. Cover the pot and let simmer for at least three hours.

Season to taste. If you want to really amp up the “orangy-ness”, add a drop or two of orange extract.

Serve with creamy polenta (cream cheese is the secret here) and sautéd kale, or with hardy mashed cauliflower.