Despite sunny summer like weather this past weekend in San Francisco, we found ourselves in the mood for something more autumnal. One of our favorite cooking techniques is braising tough cuts of beef for hours in vegetables and wine and we were unable to come up with an excuse not to launch into a dish more associated with chilly fall days. The smell filled the house and made the weekend seem all the more relaxing.

We bought two beef shanks from Marin Sun Farms at the Ferry Building Farmers Market and to fortify the sauce, we used a tomato ragout that we had made during the week with some overripe heirlooms and some chilis. Once they were nestled in the crock-pot for the afternoon, it was just a matter of taking a leisurely nap, making polenta and waiting. The results were tender and unctuous and worth the extended cooking time.

braised beef shanks on polenta

2 large beef shanks
1 large white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Approximately 2 cups tomato sauce
Approximately 2 cups plus two tablespoons hearty red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 cup corn meal
3 cups water or stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1-tablespoon butter

1) Season both sides of shanks with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over high heat in a skillet and brown both sides of shanks. Set shanks aside.
2) Sautee onion and garlic in the same pan until translucent.
3) While onions cook, spread tomato sauce on bottom of crock-pot. Add sautéed onions on top of sauce Place shanks on top of onions.
4) Pour enough wine to come up the sides shanks but no so much that they float. Cover and cook on medium to low for 4-5 hours.
5) About 30 minutes before serving, make the polenta. Whisk in crème fraiche right before serving.
6) Remove shanks from crackpot and set aside in a warm oven. They will fall apart so don’t worry about trying to hold them together.
7) Bring braising liquid to a boil. Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of wine. Whisk into sauce and allow to thicken. Whisk in butter.
8) Pour polenta into a large serve bowl. Arrange meat on top and drizzle sauce over. Serve immediately.

Left over sauce can be added to rices and other starches later in the week, or poured over grilled chicken.

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