• Larry White


I've had braised venison shanks on my mind this entire hunting season. Why? Because they are simply just that good and because I'm cooking Christmas dinner this year for some family, and venison shanks are my wintertime choice for entertaining. When its cold and bleak, that's perfect weather for richer cuts from antlered animals. They can also be prepared a few days in advance, so there's no rushing around last minute while you have one hundred other things going on during this time of year.

I'll be serving the shanks over polenta which get a little extra creaminess from some mascarpone cheese and topped off with a fresh horseradish gremolata for an extra punch and to balance some of the richness. My wine of choice for this dish is an Italian wine known as Barolo, but if you can't find it simply use the best dry red wine that you can.

Keep in mind that if you don't have any whole shanks on hand you can easily substitute a blade roast, ossobuco cuts, or stew meat. If you're out of game meat you can even use lamb shanks which work really well with this dish.

Ingredients for the Shanks:

  • 2 tablespoons - Cooking oil (high smoke point such as grapeseed)

  • 4 - Venison Shanks

  • All-purpose flour, for dredging the shanks

  • 2 1/2 cups - Onions (sliced)

  • 2 cups - Carrots (chopped)

  • 2 cups - Celery (chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon - Fennel Seeds

  • 10 - Sprigs Fresh Thyme

  • 4 - Garlic Cloves (peeled and smashed)

  • 2 - Bay leaves

  • 3 - Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

  • 1/4 cup - Tomato Paste

  • 2 cup - Dry Red Wine (I use Barolo)

  • 7 cups - Chicken Stock

  • Salt & Black pepper

Cooking the Shanks:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

  3. Dredge the shanks in the flour, getting off any excess.

  4. Add the shanks to the pan, and cook on all sides until browned, Cook in batches if needed.

  5. Set the shanks aside.

  6. Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and to the pan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 4-5 minutes.

  7. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

  8. Add the wine, scraping to deglaze the pan. Add the chicken stock and a pinch of salt and black pepper.

  9. Taste the cooking liquid and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

  10. Return the shanks to the pan, cover and braise in the oven until the meat is fork tender, 3 to 3.5 hours

Ingredients for the Polenta:

  • 4 cups - Water

  • 1 cup - Coarse Polenta (not instant)

  • 1 cup - Milk

  • 2 tablespoons - Unsalted Butter

  • 1/2 cup - Mascarpone Cheese

  • 1 cup - Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated is best)

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking the Polenta:

  1. In a pot combine the water with the polenta and mix until smooth.

  2. Cook over medium heat, while stirring constantly until the polenta is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

  3. Pour in the milk mixing constantly until the polenta is barely tender, about 25 minutes.

  4. Mix in the butter and mascarpone and cook for about 10-12 minutes longer or until the polenta is creamy and tender.

  5. Mix in the Parmesan cheese

  6. Season the with salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Gremolata:

  • 1/2 cup - Fresh Parsley (chopped)

  • 2 tablespoons - Olive Oil

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 teaspoon - lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon - kosher salt

  • 2 - Cloves Garlic (minced)

  • 2 tablespoons - Horseradish (freshly grated)

Preparing the Gremolata

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and stir until combined. *** Omit the horseradish if you can't find fresh.

Bringing it all together

  • To serve, spread out a portion of the polenta on a platter, place the shanks in the center with the vegetables. Spoon over enough cooking liquid to your liking, top off each shank with some gremolata, and dig in!

  • You can make the shanks up to three days in advance and the polenta two days in advance.

  • Make the gremolata the day you are eating.

  • If you can't find coarse polenta just use what you can find and follow the instructions on the package, adding the cheese at the end.