iGo Radio

Venison Shank / garlic from Hank Shaw

November 17, 2012

The key to cooking any shank, wild or domestic, is to cook it slow, moist and low. Take your time, braise or stew the shanks over low heat. Once you figure that out, you’re golden.

Hunters out there, if you have never bothered with the shanks from your deer, you really ought to. Ever try to use one for sausage or burger? The same connective tissue that makes a braised shank so good will destroy your grinder — or make you homicidal as you try (unsuccessfully) to remove all of it beforehand. Better to go with what nature gives you.

To remove a shank from a deer or pig, you will often need a hacksaw, but if you cut all the tendons just right you can break the shank off by bending it backwards. Shanks from smaller deer, antelope or pigs should be cooked whole, like this recipe, while elk or moose shanks should be cut into cross sections like beef shanks.

Most braised shank recipes are heavy, loaded with dark, brooding ingredients like mushrooms, Port or beef stock. I like those flavors as much as the next guy, but it would not be right for this yearling antelope, whose meat is pale… like lamb. So I went with a spring lamb feel for this dish. I know it’s November, but we just got our first cool weather of the year here in California, so I’m not quite ready for dark and brooding just yet.

I have a lot of garlic lying around the pantry, so I decided to go with a flavor reminiscent of Forty Clove Chicken. Yes, there are something like 4 heads of garlic in this dish. Worry not: The garlic gets very mellow in the braising process, and if you follow the trick I provide in the instructions, peeling it all will take you less than a minute. Really.

The result is a smooth, silky, mellow (and yes, garlicky, but not offensively so) sauce poured over meat that’s so tender it falls off the bone. A little lemon zest and white wine provide some tartness, some rosemary for balance. Try this recipe and you too may find yourself eating the shanks from your deer before you even think about the backstrap…

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