Today I would like to welcome Linnaea Elzinga from the Meathacher blog. Apart from being a talented photographer, Linnaea works with her parents at the Alderspring Ranch, a 100% grass fed, certified organic ranch raising beef. Linnaea loves cooking and she enjoys the challenge of coming up with healthy recipes with simple ingredients.
Thanks so much for the chance to guest post on your beautiful site, Maria! Today we’re talking beef shanks (or, the ossobuco, as we call them) which have an incredible flavor and are so good for you! I have heard people call the taste “gamey,” but though the flavor in beef shanks is strongly “beefy” (for lack of a better term), in quality grass fed meat you won’t find any wonky undertones.
The ossobuco/shank comes from the leg of the cow and has a small round bone in the middle, which is surrounded by meat and some connective tissue. Because of the muscle, the beef shank can be super tough unless it’s cooked low and slow in a stew or slow cooker. Then the meat will break down to become fall-off-the-bone tender. And did I mention the flavor? Try it, and you’ll be a believer.
So, what about all that connective tissue and bone, you ask. Well, fact is that connective tissue is very good for you, as is the bone marrow hidden in that small bone in the middle. Ossobucos are full of vitamins (such as the complete form of Vitamin A, which is good for your eyes, immune system, and organs), minerals like calcium and iron, essential fatty acids that help your brain function, and lipids. If you’re tired of bone broth and its occasionally overly potent flavor, or you just want to sink your teeth into some good meat, the ossobuco packs a powerful punch.
One word of caution: if you buy conventionally raised beef, you can end up eating toxins that are typically stored in the bone marrow, defeating the purpose of all those health benefits. For instance, if the cow was treated with antibiotics or ate grass sprayed with herbicides like glyphosate, that’s what will end up on your dinner plate! We’ve been in the beef business for over 24 years, and we see a lot of misinformation going on around us. Be sure to buy quality beef that is 100% grass fed and finished and never treated with chemicals. Certified organic as well as grass fed is better (which is why my family works so hard to maintain that standard). It requires that the producer never uses hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, or inhumane treatment, and the producer’s methods are 3rd-party inspected to ensure this. Grass fed requires none of these standards, and even if your producer claims to be chemical-free, I’ve observed that this sadly is not always the case. Our advice from an inside perspective: persistently ask questions before buying from any producer (and yes, that includes us)!
- Do your cattle ever eat anything but grass, hay, and their mother’s milk?
- Where do you source your hay from? While the producer’s farm may not have pesticides and herbicide use, the hay farm he buys from may.
- Where are your cattle born and raised? Some producers will say “our beef is sourced from the US” without the clarification that only most of their beef is “sourced from the US” while the rest is from Australia. Very sneaky, right?
- How do you manage weeds on your property? If they are truly chemical-free, they’ll say that they manually kill weeds with a grub hoe or a weedwhacker or use grazing strategies to combat the weeds. If they hem and haw, they may use weed-spray, which the cattle, and therefore you, consume.
- What do you do when one of your cattle gets sick? Do you ever sell beef that has been treated with antibiotics? Do you feed antibiotics or ionophores to increase weight gain?
- Are the cattle slaughtered humanely? (The important question no one wants to ask).
- If you adhere to organic practices, why aren’t you certified? Do not take “It’s too expensive” or “we don’t like big government regulations” as acceptable answers. If the producer is already adhering to organic standards, it is not a huge hurdle to get certified. Organic practices, not certification, are expensive. And as for disliking government, this 3rd party verification may not be the best it could be, but it is the best system we currently have to verify producer integrity.
What excites me is that there is a growing movement of people (such as bloggers like Maria here at Zesty Paleo) who are pushing for producer transparency and quality ingredients that contribute to health. Many of you are already asking the right questions, and I feel that we’re taking big steps towards greater wellness for ourselves, our animals, and our planet.
But right now, you’re probably starting to get a little hungry. I know I am. Let’s cook up some tasty (and zesty!) beef shanks!
- 4-6 beef ossobuco shanks
- About 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (see notes)
- 1 whole head of garlic, with the cloves chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper (omit if on the strict AIP)
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- ¼ cup red wine (see notes)
- 1 cup water, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 orange
- About 10 full springs of fresh thyme (don't worry about plucking leaves off—they'll fall off during cooking)
- On the stovetop, heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat and add the extra virgin olive oil (you can also use avocado oil for this). Fry the beef shanks in the oil until lightly browned on both sides. You may have to do the shanks in batches if they don't all fit in the stovetop pan.
- Remove the shanks from heat and place in your slow cooker, or, if you prefer to cook in the oven, a Dutch oven or any oven-safe pan that can be covered.
- Put the chopped garlic in the frying pan that is still on the stove and lightly brown the garlic. Add the salt, pepper (if using), molasses, wine, water, and honey. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil as you slice your orange into 8 slices (leave peels on).
- Place the oranges over the beef shanks, then sprinkle the thyme sprigs on top. Pour the hot water mixture into the slow cooker, then pick the slow cooker up and shake it a bit to get the sauce well mixed with the beef shanks.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low or in the oven at 200 degrees F for 6-8 hours until the meat is fall-off the bone tender. If the sauce all cooks away, add a little more water (you're more likely to have to do this in the oven than in the slow cooker since the oven is a bit dryer). Note that the ossobucos won't be completely covered in sauce as they cook, and they should not be. About halfway through cooking, flip the ossobucos that aren't completely covered to allow the sauce to penetrate.
- Serve over quinoa if you can eat that, or with oven roasted veggies (asparagus, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, onions, and mushrooms in photos).
Olive Oil: Check ingredients and processing for soy! Substitutions: Avocado Oil.
Red Wine: Wine is allowed on the AIP diet, especially for cooking (https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-whys-behind-the-autoimmune-protocol-alcohol/), but should be used only in small quantitates. If you're avoiding wine, you can substitute with balsamic vinegar.
Honey: Honey or maple syrup are allowed on the AIP diet (https://www.thepaleomom.com/start-here/the-autoimmune-protocol/) but should only be eaten in small quantities. If you're avoiding honey completely, you can skip it in this recipe. I found it did help with caramelization and to counter the acidity of the orange and wine, but the beef shanks still tasted delicious without it.
Linnaea Elzinga works with her parents, Glenn and Caryl, her sisters, and a few great crew members doing a little bit of everything. She runs the Meathacker blog and does a lot of marketing, web design, and photography as well as helps out on the ranch riding and herding cows. She has always loved cooking, and since most of her family eats paleo, as do many of her customers, she enjoys the challenge of coming up with healthy recipes with simple ingredients.
Alderspring Ranch is a 100% grass fed, certified organic ranch raising beef with integrity in the wild mountains of Idaho. The cattle forage on some of the most remote and nutrient-rich mountain pastures in the world. With over 20 years of experience raising the best grass fed beef, Alderspring Ranch is a small, sustainability-focused operation run by a family passionate about growing exceptional beef. There’s no corporate feel or middleman: Alderspring is ranch-direct beef delivered to your door. With Alderspring, you are guaranteed humanely-raised beef free of GMOs, pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals. You can order beef on their website (http://alderspring.com) or find delicious healthy beef recipes on their cooking blog (http://alderspring.com/meathacker).