By Riki Shore
The other day I was flipping through an issue of Food & Wine when I came across a recipe for Asian beef shanks. It called for browning the shanks, then cooking them on the stovetop, but I immediately thought I could adapt it to the slow cooker. Doing so meant I could prep it in the morning and come home to a fully prepared meal at dinnertime.
A lot of Asian-inspired dishes are a balance of sweet and savory, achieved by adding sugar to marinades and sauces. This particular recipe (most likely more American than Asian) called for a whole cup of sugar, plus some molasses. I decided to omit both and use only a bit of honey. After making the dish, I can honestly say that you could omit the sweetener altogether and not sacrifice any of the flavor.
We have a freezer full of grass-fed beef, so I chose to use an arm roast. Use any roast or even stew meat, if that’s what you have. (For stew meat, reduce the cooking time by half, since you’re starting with small chunks of beef.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 pound grass-fed arm roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 garlic cloves
8 star anise
3 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns
3 cups water
1/2 cup tamari
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden, about 10 minutes total. Using tongs, carefully remove the meat to the slow cooker.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add all the spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet, stirring and scraping up any browned bits. Pour everything into the slow cooker on top of the meat. Cover and cook on low about 2 hours, until meat is tender and comes apart easily with a fork.
4. Remove the meat to a cutting board. Strain the broth and set aside. Roughly chop the meat with two forks. Place a portion of the beef into a shallow bowl, pour some of the reserved broth over, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.