So far we have had such a lovely fall with crisp sunny days and very little rain (despite all the warnings that this is another La Nina year). It's making me feel a little better about summer being over and winter around the corner. Another thing helping me cope with the changing seasons is braised pork shanks! Talk about warm, comforting food. These babies are just what I need to survive the dark, dreary nights.

I will admit that not everything came together perfectly. I foolishly did not fully read the supporting Gigante Beans recipe so did not realize until there was about 2 hours to go that they were supposed to soak for 6 hours then simmer for 2 hours. Eep! Let's hope my trusty pressure cooker can save the day!

But, the shanks began long before I realized my bean mishap. In fact, they truly started 1-1/2 weeks earlier when I stewed up a very expensive 4 cups of veal stock. Then this morning, I pulled my solid gold veal stock out of the freezer and got to work. First to season the shanks and sear them to a deep golden brown. They come out of the pan and a selection of veggies goes in. Really, I'm just cutting the head of garlic in half and throwing it in the pan? Won't we be picking garlic paper out of our teeth later? (Note to future self : we are straining all the simmer veggies out of the broth before eating, dummy).

sweatin' the veggies

Nestle the shanks back in, add 2 rosemary springs and the veal stock to cover then braise in a 300ยบ oven for 3 hours. Cut to 2 hours later and I am just realizing the beans have not been soaking for 6 hours and I am in serious trouble in the gigante department. Start soaking beans, hoping to get as much time as possible before they go into the pressure cooker.

into the oven, my lovelies!

Wow! The house is smelling amazing! After 3 hours in the oven, the meat does "give easily to a tug from a fork", so out it comes. Wait, I'm supposed to let them cool to room temperature in the broth. But I'm hungry now! I chop up my "serving vegetables" (turnip, carrot and cipollini onion) and stir the pot in frustration. Cool, dammit!

Forget it! The stock is cool enough it doesn't burn my finger so I'm calling it. Out come the shanks and I discard any fat/skin (which there is a lot of) and give lucky pooch one of the bones. Then the stock is strained and the mushy veggies discarded (thanks for your flavor!). After reducing the stock by half, the serving veggies and more stalks of rosemary go in to cook until just soft. Then the shank meat is returned to the stock to warm up before serving.

ready to eat!

At this point, I am trying desperately to cook those damn beans. Not happening... and it's way past dinner time. So I give up on having the beans ready and just let them simmer on to eat another time with the left-overs. For now, we can soak up the sauce with some crusty bread.

So damn good! The sauce is thick and velvety. The shanks just fall apart with each bite. And I appreciate the sweet hit from the carrot and bitter tang of the turnip. All in all, success!

braised shanks (with beans)

But, I still want to have the complete dish, beans and all. So the next night we heat up some left-overs and serve them over the beans (which finally did cook). I can see why this is served over beans. They bulk up the dish and add lovely, creamy support to each bite.

My only complaint is all the damn rosemary! Each step had me throwing in more and more (the braising step, cooking the serving veggies AND the beans each got 2 - 3 whole sprigs). Now each bite is like eating while camping, full of pine needles. They keep stabbing me in the roof of my mouth. One thing I would change, chop the rosemary!

an average bite with 4 rosemary needles!

Overall amazing dish! I think I would compress some steps a bit. Maybe cook the serving veggies while re-heating the shank meat (save 15 minutes). And, of course, plan ahead on those beans :)

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