Red Cooked Beef Shin – 紅燒牛腱

red-cooked beef shin

Whenever my mum throws a party, there are staples that family and friends expect to be served. Of these are drunken chicken wings, and red-cooked beef shin or turkey gizzards (which may sound totally horrific to those uninitiated, but my god, gizzards are delicious). So this Chinese New Year I decided on the beef shin and found myself making a large pot of aromatic red broth to braise my meat. I actually tried to source some turkey gizzards, but I think all the local butchers I called around thought I was a bit loopy. Oh gizzards. I shall find you one day.

I remade this again last night because my guests who were as quick and hungry as gannets gobbled it all up before I could take a picture. I doubled this amount to be a bit of a nibbly appetiser for around 20 people. So, below will probably be a starter to serve 4?

Red Cooked Beef Shin:
700 g beef shin
5 or 6 shallots - roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel of an orange
2.5 cups cold water
1/2 Shiu Hing (brown) cooking wine
1 cup light soy sauce
3 tbsp rock or granulated sugar
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp liquorice powder
A drizzle of sesame oil to serve

Get a colander in the sink. Rinse the meat in cold water, trim some of the outer fatty bits if you must. Then take some boiling water and douse the meat to seal it a bit.

Chop your shallots fry them in a bit of vegetable oil until fragrant – remove and save for later. With a peeler, peel the orange rind off in one long spiral. Now get a pot and put the water, soy, sugar, shallots, orange peel and and spices (basically all the ingredients but the sesame oil) into it. You want the pot small enough that when you add the beef it is completely submerged in the braising liquid.

Shin in and bring it to a boil, after 5 mins turn the heat right down to a simmer. Notes from my mum said ‘braise for at least 40 mins until tender’. I ended up simmering it for 2.5 hours. You want to check the water level is always submerging the meat, and maybe flip it around every so often so all sides get infused with the flavour. Check tenderness with a skewer, it should be soft enough to melt in the mouth but still have structure when you slice it.

The absolute best thing about slow cooking with shin is the ribbons of tendon and fat which render down into impossibly guilty deliciousness. You can just about see the marbling in the photo above.

Once tender, remove the beef from the braising liquid and let it rest for 15 minutes. Now thinly slice against the grain of the meat and serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a splash of the red braising broth. If I were to be a bit more organised about this, I might even scoop some of the red broth out into a smaller pot and reduce it down into a thicker dipping sauce. So maybe you wanna do that if you have time.

Orange Infused Braised Fennel

Some fennel arrived in my veg box this week, and I was left in a bit of a quandary. Since the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations this year, where I suffered a particularly bad Sambuca related incident, I have been unable to come within 10 feet of the stuff without gagging and likewise with anything resembling the aniseed tipple. Cue the mild consternation at my veg box opening. Can I even prepare the veg without feeling nauseous? How would I serve the fennel without strange Queeny related flashbacks?  The answer is braised. Braised in an orangy saucy gravy.

The original recipe actually required Sambuca, Pastise, Ouzo or any other aniseed flavored booze. Um. I really had to substitute this for Cointreau, and I would highly recommend any fellow Sambuca Sufferers to follow suit.

Braised Fennel Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Cointreau
1/4 cup veg stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp fennel fronds
Zest of half an orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Trim the top off your fennel bulb, remove the fronds and lightly chop them up and set aside. You want to divide your bulb into 8, pieces. Keep them attached to the core so they don’t fall apart when you’re cooking.

Set a wide enough sauté pan on the hob where you’ll be able to brown each piece of fennel in one layer. Set it to medium high heat and melt your butter. Bring the heat down a bit and lay all you fennel bits in. Nicely brown one side. This should take around 4 mins. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar for caramelization. Turn to brown the other side.

Once evenly browned. Increase the heat and add your alcohol. This should quickly boil down. When it’s almost entirely evaporated, add the stock and water. Once this liquid starts boiling, bring the heat down low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. While this is simmering grate your orange zest – set aside.

15 minutes up? Remove that lid and let the sauce boil down to a glaze. Add a pinch of the fronds and the half the zest. Gently combine.

Plate up. Brush the saucy gravy goodness on the fennel. Sprinkle with the rest of the fronds and zest. Squeeze over with the orange. Done.

I can report that I ate the lot. It’s delicious. I even managed to share some with a friend with similar aniseed aversions and they didn’t gag either. So, a win in my books methinks.

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