The shank is one of the most flavorful parts of the cow. As a child, it was the only cut I liked to eat because I loved how the gelatinous tendon lends a stickiness to the meat. Aside from being one of my preferred cuts for cooking stews, beef shank is also great for making broth. The bone at the center of each cross-cut of shank — with the marrow, if you’re lucky — transforms plain water into a rich liquid that one can sip by itself or, if reduced to a concentrate, serve as a base for making gravy.
A few days ago, I put a generous amount of beef shank into the slow cooker primarily to make broth to stock in the freezer for future use. It turned out that I had more broth than I needed so I used the remaining third of the broth to make this soup.
For better flavor, I browned the shanks in butter before moving them to the slow cooker. Not only does browning give broth a richer color and flavor, it also prevents scum from forming.
Slow-cooker beef and vegetables soup
- 800 grams meaty beef shanks
- 4 tablespoons butter divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic pounded
- 1/2 onion
- a sprig tarragon
- a sprig thyme
- a sprig rosemary
- 1/2 cup carrot chopped (see how to chop, illustrated)
- 1/2 cup celery chopped
- 1/2 cup onion chopped
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
- 1 cup milk
Rinse the beef and wipe dry with paper towels.
Heat two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Lower the beef into the hot butter in a single layer. Sprinkle salt and pepper directly on the meat. Brown all sides of the shanks. Turn off the heat and cover the pan.
Transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker. Pour in enough water to cover (you can add more if your slow cooker is rather large). Sprinkle in some salt. Add the peppercorns, garlic, onion, tarragon, thyme and rosemary.
Set the slow cooker to HIGH. After two hours, set the heat to LOW and let the beef cook for eight more hours. Scoop out. Strain the broth. Pour back about six cups of broth into the slow cooker. Keep the heat set to LOW.
Add the remaining butter to the frying pan and heat. Saute the chopped carrot, celery and onion until softened. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Add the corn and continue cooking for another minute.
Scape all the contents of the pan into the slow cooker.
Shred the meat off the bones. Add to the vegetables in the slow cooker. If there's marrow that still hasn't fallen into the broth, throw that back in too.
Pour in the milk. Taste the broth and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Cook for another hour.