Recently a friend gave me a wonderful cookbook, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan ©2011. It makes for great reading offering up bits of historical and anecdotal details relating to offal, in addition to some really interesting recipes.
Unfortunately these days it's difficult to find a lot of the items covered in this book. When was the last time you came across lung, spleen, heart or testicles? Heck, just a few years ago it took me nearly a month to get my hands on some kidneys in Dallas. Kidneys for crying out loud!!! I spent days on the phone calling butchers in both Fort Worth and Dallas until I found one who carried them. I haven't really come across interesting "odd bits" since leaving Toronto, where nearly 35 years ago those items were common place in butcher shops in Kensington Market or along Bloor street. I remember a Hungarian restaurant that offered sour lung on its menu and several butchers that sold the spongy looking organ in their shops. I had no idea that along with udders, the USDA doesn't consider lung suitable for human consumption. Perhaps with the renewed interest in head to tail cooking, those items might reappear some day.
This recipe for beef shank ravioli was inspired by a recipe from Odd Bits, for deconstructed oxtail ravioli with peas. I have seen oxtail at my local butcher, but they don't always have them so I brought home a piece of beef shank instead. I braised the meat until it fell apart in a sauce which was similar to Jennifer McLagan's. Aside from swapping out the meat, I had to make a few more changes because I didn't have all of the ingredients. I didn't start off with a proper mirepoix as I forgot to bring home celery, and I didn't have access to chervil, so I used parsley instead. I also added some fresh marjoram.
This is a time intensive recipe which I broke down over three days. I prepared the filling the first day and stuffed the ravioli on the second. On the third day I made a delicious pea sauce to go with the flavorful beef shank ravioli.
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 lb boneless beef shank
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 tsp low sodium organic Better than Bouillon Beef Base
4 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil in a large pot or skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Cut apart the beef shank into four or five pieces and generously season with salt and pepper.
Fry the meat until both sides have nicely browned; the middle will still be raw. Remove the meat and place onto a plate. Set aside.
Add the onion and carrots to the pot or skillet. Reduce the heat and stir the vegetable mixture in order to scrape up the browned bits. Cook until the vegetables have softened and begin to caramelize.
Stir in the wine, Better than Bouillon, parsley, marjoram, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Return the meat and any juices that have formed on the plate.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot or skillet and braise for about 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Halfway through, turn the meat over and add a small amount of water if the mixture seems too dry.
Remove the lid and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. You want most of the liquid to have evaporated, yet still have the meat remain nice and moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed. Remove from heat.
Cool, remove the parsley and marjoram sprigs and bay leaf. Shred the meat with a fork. At this point the filling can be wrapped and refrigerated for several days until you are ready to prepare the dough and stuff the ravioli.
Refrigerate the filling for at least an hour before stuffing the ravioli. This helps firm it up.
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2-3 large eggs
water, as needed
Combine the flour and eggs in a large bowl or a food processor. Add enough water until you have a soft dough. If you are using the food processor, then run the motor until the dough forms into a ball. If you are doing this by hand, then knead it a few times once it all comes together.
Remove a small piece of dough and roll it out thin into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with another piece of dough about the same size and set aside. (I used a pasta machine and put it through a setting of 5 or 6 (out of 9).) If you are rolling it out by hand, this would roughly equate to about 1/12 or so of an inch. I had some pasta dough left over, so don't worry if you can't get it that thin.
Place heaping teaspoonfuls of filling about 1/2 an inch apart on one of the pasta sheets. Lightly spritz with water or brush water around the filling. Place the second sheet of dough over the first and gently press down to seal and remove as much air as possible.
Cut the ravioli apart with a pastry or pizza cutter. Place the finished ravioli on a floured surface and repeat until you have used up all of the dough and filling.
At this point you can freeze the ravioli by placing them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer, not touching and freezing them for at least 3 hours.
1/2 stick butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup peas
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1-2 green onion, sliced
1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to froth and then add the garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds, then add the peas. Lower the heat a touch and cook, stirring for about two minutes.
Stir in the parsley, green onion, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat a bit and drop in the ravioli. Cook for about 4-5 minutes (add 2 minutes if they were frozen).
Serve immediately with the pea sauce.