Monday, August 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef Shank & Fresh Tomato Sauce

I really love using my slow cooker in the summer time to make fresh tomato sauces, especially meat laden ones that cook all day low and slow. It creates a thick, rich and flavorful sauce that requires very little work and doesn't heat up your kitchen. I choose inexpensive and tough cuts of meat that have lots of great bone marrow and lots of wonderful fat. The marrow and fat break down during the long, slow cooking process and make for the most delectable sauce you have ever eaten. For this recipe I used a pasture raised beef shank, its such a large and cheap cut of meat and it tastes so wonderful in the tangy, summery tomato sauce. The meat becomes so tender, like the moistest pot roast on the planet! I love to use fresh tomatoes when they are in season because they are so affordable and they taste so fresh and amazing; feel free to use canned tomatoes if you are reading this in winter, it will still be wonderful! We chose to serve ours over some wonderful organic ravioli but feel free to make my homemade pasta or even serve it up over some garlic mashers, that would be amazing as well!

This recipe will serve 8-10 as a sauce over pasta.


1.5 lbs Pasture raised beef shank

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 lbs of fresh organic tomatoes, about 10 apple size tomatoes.

4 Pieces pasture raised bacon, chopped.

2 Medium, organic onions, diced.

6 Organic cloves garlic, minced or grated.

3 Stalks organic celery, diced.

1 Organic fresno chili, diced, I used all the seeds and ribs but if you don't like it super spicy then remove those and chop, any spicy pepper that you like can be used.

1/4 Cup organic tomato paste

1 Cup dry white wine, I used Pinot Grigio.

2 Tbsp organic, fair trade, raw cane sugar, you may need more or less depending on the acid level of your tomatoes.

2 Sprigs organic, fresh rosemary

5 Sprigs organic, fresh thyme

1 Sprig organic, fresh oregano

1 Fresh, organic bay leaf

Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste.


Bring your shank to room temp, about 30 minutes on the counter.

Salt and pepper your beef shank all over, generously.

In a dutch oven or heavy bottom sauce pan, over medium high heat, brown the beef shank on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pan cook the bacon till crispy and remove. Turn the heat down to medium and in the same pan cook the onions, garlic, celery and pepper till soft and translucent about 6 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and stir to melt, add in the white wine and cook about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Place the beef, bacon and vegetable mixture into a large slow cooker.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and slice an x in the bottom of each tomato. Boil the tomatoes in batches for about 4 minutes, each batch, until the skin starts to peel away from the flesh, remove tomatoes to a large bowl. When all the tomatoes have been boiled and have cooled so that you can work with them, peel the skin off of each tomato and discard the skin. Break up the tomatoes into a bowl, removing the hard stem that runs through them, its usually white and hard you will feel it. You don't need them to break up uniformly its really only to help the cooking process and take out the stem, I just squeeze them with my hands and pull away the soft flesh from the hard part. Add the soft tomato flesh to the slow cooker.

Tie the rosemary, thyme and oregano up with kitchen twine and place in the slow cooker along with the bay leaf. If you don't have twine its fine to place them in there as is, you will just need to look for and remove the stems when the sauce is done.

Cook everything on high for 6-7 hours, or until the meat is tender and easily pulls apart with a fork, it should literally be like slicing through butter, if its not then keep cooking it. When your meat is tender and falling apart remove it and the bones from the sauce. Separate the meat with two forks and pull out any and all bones. You also want to remove anything that isn't tender, mine had some tough, unappetizing fatty pieces. I also like to check inside the bones for any marrow that hasn't made its way out, I push it out with anything long and thin. Add all your shredded meat and any marrow back to your sauce. Remove the herb stems and bay leaf and turn off the heat. Stir to combine well. At this point I taste for salt, pepper and sugar levels and add accordingly. It sometimes takes quite a bit of salt and sugar to get the sauce you want so don't be afraid to add it in! Stir each time you add, and taste.

To serve: ladle sauce over ravioli, homemade pasta, garlic mashed potatoes or even over bread as an open faced sandwich topping, like a fancy sloppy Joe! Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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