Persian-style Venison Shanks (Version 2)

I found a couple shanks from 2015 in the bottom of our chest freezer a few months ago– how did I miss them?– and thankfully, they did not show any signs of freezer burn. The vacuum seal held up well– though I did go ahead and repackaged them– and the thick layers of silver skin on the shanks did help protect the meat underneath from freezer burn. 

With that said, when packaging venison for the freezer, I do very little trimming. Silver skin does provide a protective layer during storage. So this season, don't worry about cleaning your wild game too well before vacuum sealing. Save time, and do all the fine trimming after you've thawed the meat and are ready to cook it later. 

Shank is one of our favorite cuts on a deer. It's the only cut that I would describe as unctuous. All that silver skin and gristle melts into a jelly-like consistency that resembles fat, so much that you will forget that venison is so lean. Neck meat is a close second, but it's not quite like shank. 

We used to be religious about removing every bit of silver skin as possible when cooking venison– and we still do with cuts for steak, stir fry, kebabs and even grinding– but parts that will be braised or stewed, we leave all of it. After time, heat and moisture do their magic, tough connective tissues soften into a pleasant and necessary texture. Too little connective tissues in a braise and you end up with stringy, soggy, boring stew. 

This Persian-style venison shank recipe is an update from the original one that we made back in 2014. You can find the first recipe here: 

 A few changes from the original recipe: we scored the meat– shallow cuts into the outside layer of silver skin to prevent the meat from contracting too much as the connective tissues shrink. This sort of helps the meat on the shank keep its shape; you'll find that the meat will contract and pull up toward the top of the bone as it cooks. 

This recipe is best for the front shanks, which are shorter than the hind shanks. Each front shank will fit better into a large pot whole and will provide a hearty serving for one person. The hind shanks, which are considerably longer and thicker and won't fit into any pot that we own, we cut those into smaller pieces for osso buco. You can find a how-to for that here:

We also added a few more Middle Eastern-inspired spices to the broth, and increased the temperature for faster cooking. We hope you get to try this recipe this season. Good luck to all!

Servings: 2 to 3 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
- 2 front venison shanks, bone-in
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1½ tablespoon of flour
- Olive oil for browning
- ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 3 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon of dried fenugreek leaves
- Pinch of saffron
- 1 to 2 quarts of chicken or game stock
- Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 servings of cooked basmati or other long-grain white rice 
- Ground sumac, to taste (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Make shallow cuts around the circumference of the shank, down the whole shank. Just cut deep enough to break past the thick outer layer of silver skin. 
2. Season shanks well with kosher salt. Combine turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, and cumin, and then rub all over the shanks. Then sprinkle flour over the rub. 
3. Coat the bottom of a large cast iron pot (big enough to fit shanks) with olive oil and heat over medium. 

Brown shanks on both sides– you may have to do this one by one. Remove shanks and set aside.
4. In the same pot over medium heat, add more oil as necessary and sauté onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add ground coriander, garlic, tomato paste and saffron, and sauté for about 1 minute. 

Add the fenugreek and return the shanks to the pot. Pour in enough stock to nearly cover all the shanks. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release brown bits. Bring to a boil. Then take off heat, cover and braise shanks in the oven in a 350-degree oven for 2.5-3 hours or until the shanks become tender.

5. When the shanks are tender, remove the pot from the oven. If necessary, uncover the pot and simmer over the stove if you want the sauce thicker and more concentrated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serve with basmati rice with sumac sprinkled on top.