Venison shanks are flavorful and packed with rich gelatin. Twice cooked with a smoke then a braise, they may become your new favorite cut.
Hunting your own meat is a pretty awesome experience. And it comes with an element of responsibility, too. As a hunter, you have a responsibility to dispatch the animal quickly, and use as much of it as possible (one way I like to to that is to turn the bones into venison stock).
The next level up from that would be to get creative with the meat. It’s a common practice amongst Texas hunters to stuff everything with cheese and jalapeno and wrap it in bacon. No matter the protein. Which is absolutely delicious, but perhaps not honoring the meat so much as masking it. Trying to glean 10 pounds of jerky from a small doe is sort of the same concept. As is cutting up backstraps to chicken fry them (THE HORROR! Why would you do that when you could do this?!).
If you are a hunter who also enjoys eating well, I implore you! Don’t cut the shank meat for grind – keep them whole and get experience one of the most phenomenal and underrated cuts on the animal! See, just like with beef and lamb shanks, venison shanks are packed with pockets of collagen that transforms to gelatin while cooking. It’s the same stuff that makes briskets and beef cheeks so sumptuous. I store the vacuum sealed shanks in my freezer until I have two sets to cook with. Also bumping up the taste factor – the marrow from the bone slowly cooks out during the braise, flavoring the liquid which eventually becomes a silky sauce. Heck yes!
This particular recipe is one I am pretty proud of. I mean, I stand by all the food and recipes I share, but there are definitely favorites, and this is one of them. The stout and coffee start off as bitter but mellow during cooking to yield an amazing subtle sweetness, with smokey end notes from the pit cook. All these ingredients are big bold flavors, but they all work. You’re going to have to trust me. But so help me, if you don’t find this as delicious as I did then there is something wrong with you.
eason the venison generously with kosher salt, and place into a smoker to cook at 250f for one and a half hours. This step is just to flavor the shanks with smoke, rather than cook them. You can also do this step the day prior, and store the shanks in the fridge overnight.
Cut the onion, parsnip and carrot into large chunks. Place a large heavy based pot over high heat and add the olive oil. Add the veggies and cook until browned, 7-10 minutes.
Pour in the stout, stock, coffee and sugar. Stir to combine and bring the mix to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add the shanks, nestling them so they are mostly immersed in the braising liquid. Cover, and simmer for two to two-and-a-half hours, or until the meat is tender.
Once pull-apart tender, remove the shanks from the liquid and use two forks to remove and shred the meat. Set aside in a bowl.
Pour the braising liquid through a fine sieve and reserve two cups of the strained liquid. Place into a small saucepan over low heat.
In a small bowl, add a small amount of water to the cornflour, just enough to turn it into a loose paste. Then add this mixture and the butter to the strained liquid, and whisk to combine. Return the venison pieces to the liquid and warm through for 3-5 minutes.
You can eat as is, or spoon over your favorite pasta, grits or polenta for a heartier meal.