As strange as it may sound, pork shanks are fairly well-liked here in Quebec. Or well, at least, they used to be. Years and years ago… I think that nowadays, they get real popular around Christmas time but as soon as that’s over, they quickly go back into oblivion where they remain for the rest of the year.
But it wasn’t always like that. From what I understand, they used to be very popular fare in this part of the world and were traditionally served whole in the plate. Yes, that’s meat, bone, fat and all…
My dad used to RAVE about them.
Me, personally, I never cared for huge chunks of jiggly fat and inedible bones being served to me on a plate, so in that sense, pork shanks have always been kind of a turnoff.
Shame, because their meat is sooooo unbelievably moist and tender and juicy and TASTY! If you’ve ever had them, then you know exactly what I’m talking about!
So my solution is to simply pick the meat out and get rid of all the rest; only the prized meat ever makes it to my plate.
For the longest time, now, I’ve joined the ranks of the majority here and only ever had pork shanks as part of our traditional Christmas Pork Shank and Meatball Stew. Let me tell you, not anymore! Why reserve such a delicacy to only this ONE meal in the year?
Pork shanks will definitely be finding their way to my kitchen table a lot more regularly now, I can guarantee you that! Especially now that I know how much of a breeze it is to make them in a Dutch oven and turn them into a delicious braised stew…
I might very well start experimenting with flavor combinations, too. But for now, let’s stick to what I know and am comfortable with!
First, the shanks will need to be seared over high heat. Searing them on all sides until they get a nice, dark brown crust is key to getting them to release their full flavor potential. Hey, those aren’t my words. They were spoken by non-other than Jehane Benoît, Québec’s very own Julia Child. If Madame Benoît said it, then it *must* be true.
So let’s get our Dutch oven nice and hot to start with.
While the Dutch oven is heating up, we can mix the spices together in a large plate. Then we pat the pork shanks dry and dredge them in that spice mixture, making sure that all sides are well covered.
Don’t be afraid to lay it on thick!
Add the shanks to the hot Dutch oven and sear them nice and good on all sides, until a nice dark brown crust forms, about 3-4 minutes per side. Resist the urge to move them around. Just let them sit there and form that crust.
Once the shanks are good and browned, add the onion and parsley, plus the water mixed with the savory, mustard, coriander as well as the rest of the spice mixture that didn’t get used to coat the pork shanks earlier.
Bring that to a boil then transfer to the oven and braise for about 3 to 3½ hours, until the meat is super tender and falls off the bones.
Oh yeah! It’s a beautiful thing. And it smells SO good, too!
Now, you see that layer of fat that’s floating on the surface? You can skim some of that if you want to. ‘Cuz yeah, there’s quite a lot of it. I always remove as much as I can with a spoon, just because I find it’s a bit too much for my taste. But if you personally don’t mind it, feel free to leave it right were it is.
Just for the fun of it, let’s take a closer look at that beautiful meat. See how moist and juicy that is? Unbelievable. And talk about tasty…
Remove the shanks from their heavenly braising liquid and allow them to cool for a while, until you can safely handle them.
You’ll want to pick the meat out and set it aside; bones and fat you’re probably gonna want to discard… I think they’ve pretty much given their all by now.
As you can see, you don’t get that much meat out of pork shanks. This, right here, is pretty much what you can expect to get: you’re looking at about 1 pound of cooked meat per 4-5 pounds of raw shanks.
Now strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve set directly over a medium saucepan. Help it through by pushing and swirling it around with a spoon. Trust me, you’ll want to catch every last bit of this precious broth!
Bring this to a slow boil over medium-high heat.
Mix the tapioca starch with the 2 tablespoons of water and pour that right into the boiling liquid. Continue cooking for about one minute, or until the sauce is nice and thickened.
Return the meat to the saucepan, stir well and cook over medium-low heat until heated through, and then serve.
You know what the best part about pork shanks is? They are one of the cheapest cuts of pork you can get. For such a delicate and juicy piece of meat, I’d say they cost close to nothing! The trick is in knowing how to prepare them.
And you simply can’t go wrong with braising!
Now I need to come up with different flavor combinations, and maybe throw a vegetable or two in there. I’m thinking fennel and turnip… I’m thinking Dijon, honey and sage… Oh yeah! Big and bold is where this is headed.
Lucky for me, I just ordered a new side of pork. I so can’t wait for it to get here. I think the shanks will be the first to go!
Oh, and psssst… did I tell you that I was planning on making my own bacon this time?
OH YEAH! TOTALLY!