Sous Vide: Elk Shanks “Osso Buco”–2020

Sous vide facilitates uniform tenderization of this extremely lean, tough cut from the largest member of the deer family.

Ingredients

Elk (or beef/veal) shanks, as needed, 1-4, approximately 1 lb/425 g each.

Optional components

Tomatoes, canned, San Marzano or equivalent, 1-28 oz can for every 2 shanks.
Vegetable oil, as needed.
Garlic, chopped as preferred. We used 1 bulb/28 oz can of tomatoes. Note: There is no shame in dried/powdered garlic. 2 teaspoons for each 28 oz canned tomatoes.
Oregano, 1 pinch per shank.
Basil,1 pinch per shank.
Sugar, 1 teaspoon for each 28 oz can of tomatoes.
Salt, 1 teaspoon per shank.
Crushed chilis, 0.25 teaspoon per shank.
Pasta, spaghetti, 2 oz/60 g per shank.
Butter, 1 oz per shank.
Parsley, fresh, chopped, 1 Tablespoon per shank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated Lipavi container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Lipavi L10 rack or larger.
Heat rated sous vide bags.
Thick bottomed skillet, approximately 12″/35 cm.
Infrared thermometer.

Lipavi N15 polycarbonate racks–super convenient, durable, rust free.

Serves 1-4
Level of difficulty 3.0

Above: Lipavi C15 container, N15 polycarbonate racks. Lipavi C15L lid.

Procedure:

Preheat your sous vide bath to 140 F/607 C.

Vacuum seal the individual elk shanks in heat rated plastic bags. Sous vide process the packages for 60 hours.

When the interval has elapsed, either proceed to making the sauce OR conserve the shanks for future use. If your plan is to postpone service until a later date, safe handling procedures require the sealed packages be shocked in iced water until they achieve 70 F/21 C and then refrigerated at 40 F/4 C. The sealed elk shanks can be safely refrigerated for at least two weeks. On the day of service, reheat in a 140 F/60 C sous vide bath for a minimum of two hours.

Clarifying the juices to make Sous-Jus:

Set your oven on the warming function or as low as possible–170 F-190 F/77 C-88 C is ideal, but even 225 F/107 C is not too hot.

Cut a hole in the plastic pouch(es) and drain the juices into a microwaveable container or small sauce pan.

Remove the shank(s) from the bag and single layer in a casserole dish–avoid stacking the shanks. Bring the juices just to a boil either in the microwave or in the sauce pan. Line the strainer with a moistened paper towel. If you do not moisten the towel it will absorb the clarified juices rather than drain them into the container below.

Pour the hot juices through the moistened paper towel into a container.

Discard the debris and the paper towel.

Making the sauce:

Put the chopped fresh garlic in a cold skillet with 2 Tablespoons of oil per bulb.

Apply low to medium heat long enough to soften the garlic but DO NOT ALLOW TO BROWN. Browning garlic creates a bitter flavor.

Add the clarified sous-jus.

Add the canned tomatoes.

Add the oregano, basil and chilis. Bring to a low simmer. Chefs/cooks disagree and even argue into the night as to how long this sauce should be cooked. We will settle on the basic principal that when it tastes good to you, it is ready. Adjust the level of salt, pepper and sugar as needed.

Pour half of the sauce over the shank(s) in the casserole dish and stage into the warming oven. Keep the remaining sauce warm.

Pasta

Cook the pasta exactly as instructed on the packaging. When done, drain well in the colander.

Combine the pasta with the sauce that you set aside and add the butter and half of the chopped parsley.

Twirl the spaghetti into a coil using a fork with a tablespoon as the base.

Lift the fork and spoon (and pasta) and transfer to the plate.

Stage a shank on to the plate and finish with sauce from the casserole dish.

Garnish with shaved Reggiano Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Optional Presentation

Some people feel a little timid about tackling the intact shank without the embarrassing bib that they provide when you order Maine Lobster in a restaurant.

Out of consideration for those people, and my wife, I occasionally dissect the finished osso buco to make it more knife and fork friendly. The marrow can usually be removed in one piece with the implementation of a chop stick or thick brochette.

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About

Successful preparation of elk (or veal/beef) shanks requires breaking down the collagen in the meat without dislodging the marrow from the hollow bone. Traditional methods involve space intensive single layering and painstaking scrutiny to accomplish this. Sous vide packaging and processing the sliced shank makes the operation more compact and removes the necessity to micromanage progress of the dish.

Sous vide methodology also isolates the shanks' juices so they can be clarified. This prevents the telltale presence of "dots" in the end product caused by the presence of denatured albumins/myoglobin. We will explain this process in the recipe.

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