I just spent 3 amazing weeks in Colorado, cooking for a family that was vacationing there. For me, it was an unprecedented marathon of peeling, simmering, sautéing and flambéing. As busy as the kitchen was, the scale of the nature that surrounded us brought some measure of tranquility with each grazing deer, hovering hummingbird, and the odd curious bear. Best of all I got to walk home to the service cabin every night under a glowing ribbon of stars.
Returning to civilization was a mix of relief, exhaustion, and confusion. The more I travel I’ve come to realize that it’s during these fleeting jet-lagged moments, where I’m oblivious to time and place, that I feel liberated to dream up a dish that’s free from all constraints. Caught somewhere between a Rocky Mountain ranch and a bustling metropolis, I churned out this simple braise, with wanton disregard for season or place.
In this braise, the iron rich burdock not only provides a texture contrast, it also adds an earthy flavor that goes well with the miso. The tomatoes and wine contribute sweetness and a fruity aroma and that balances out the earth-tones. Lastly, the collagen rich shank produces meltingly tender morsels of meat that adds richness and body to the stew.
Braised Beef and Burdock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless beef shank (or other sinewy cut), cubed
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
3 whole ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 burdock root (gobo), peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons miso
2 bay leaves
Generously salt and pepper the beef. Heat a heavy bottomed pot such as a dutch oven until hot. Add the oil, then add the beef in a single layer. Leave undisturbed until the beef has a brown crust. Flip and fry the other side until a brown crust forms. Lower the heat and transfer the beef to a plate.
Add the onions and garlic and sauté until wilted and just starting to turn brown (about 15-20 minutes). Add the wine, and boil off the alcohol. Add the tomatoes, burdock, miso and bay leaves. Cover with a lid and simmer until the beef is very tender (2-3 hours depending on how large you cut the beef).
Once the beef is tender, taste the sauce and adjust to your liking with salt, pepper and honey. Garnish with something green and serve with rice, potatoes or pasta.