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discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.54
FALL2017

Beef shank & oyster stew with Port.

An unanticipated delight. The recipe owes a certain debt to the great Jane Grigson, but the Editor has made so many changes to the model that she feels justified in claiming this one as her own. It may not sound like much, and to American, even contemporary British ears the combination of ingredients may sound bizarre, but this is one of the best of all British preparations. As an added bonus, and even accounting for the oysters, it is a pretty cheap dish for something so beguiling. The beef shank is essential, providing lots of noncalorific gelatinous goo as a welcome thickener without a load of fat. If you play your cards right, which is not difficult, you will get smooth slugs of silky marrow to eat on toast with the stew. Four servings, but congenial to adjustment for any number of guests.


 Oysters_in_a_bed.jpg

  • about 3-4 lb beef shank, depending on the size of the bone, sawed into 1 inch rounds
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 dozen shucked oysters, their liquor strained and retained ( see the Notes)
  • about 1 ½ cups beef stock (immeasurably superior) or water
  • about 3 oz tawny Port
  • another generous Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • heaped Tablespoon flour (preferably Wondra)
  • lots of toast, for serving

Preheat the oven to 250°.

 

  1. Trim the discs of shank by peeling away the tough membrane that shields their circumference; it should pop right off after you isolate an inch or so with an extremely sharp and judicious knife.
  2. Cut the meat into 1inch cubes and trim the gristle from the rounds of bone.
  3. Make sure that the beef is bone dry and then generously season the meat with salt and pepper.
  4. Melt the butter over high heat in a heavy shallow ovenproof skillet receptive to a cover and brown the chunks of shank (but not the bones).
  5. Once the beef has turned a deep bronze, toss the bones into the skillet, followed by the stock and oyster liquor.
  6. Let the stew boil, top it with a tight cover, and shove it in the oven until the beef becomes fork tender, usually (a bit of a surprise) in no more than 1 ½ hours.
  7. While the stew stews, mash the second batch of butter with the flour and leave it to sit at room temperature.
  8. Once the beef is tender to the poke of a butcher’s fork, remove the stew from the oven.
  9. Remove the bones from the pot and then in turn remove the hunks of marrow from within the bones, then toss the bones.
  10.  Put the stew on the stove over medium heat, then add the Port and let it    boil.
  11. Reduce the heat to low and then gradually whisk in dollops of the butter- flour paste until the sauce thickens.
  12. Add the husbanded oysters but cook them only until they just begin to curl, in a very short but variable time.
  13. Serve the stew with lots of toast and the marrow, for spreading on the toast.

 

Notes:

-The combination of beef with oysters and rich red fortified wine is not so strange as it seems; oysters enhance steak and kidney pudding or pie, and dominate a carpetbagger stuffing for steak that, with or without a dollop of Port, works alchemous wonders on the grill.

-A plain green salad simply dressed is all you want to accompany this winner besides, of course, toast, which soaks up the savory juices and arguably is the best thing about the dish, although the beef does have its sensual side.

-Resist understandable temptation to add otherwise attractive enhancements like bay, thyme or Worcestershire; the appeal of these elements is very nearly primal.