Coffee-Chipotle Braised Beef Shanks | Cooking With Bells On

Coffee-Chipotle Braised Beef Shanks

This is a post that’s been a long time coming. Months ago, back in the dreaded polar vortex of winter, I made up a recipe for braised beef shanks that was a total home run. Unbelievably tender, falling-off-the-bone meat stewed in a spicy broth redolent of molé was, at the time, a seasonally appropriate alternative to my weekly batches of chili. The recipe was so good it caught me off guard, prompting me to send shamelessly bragging photos to my family back in Texas. When those photos went viral within our small text-message clan, I knew I had a winner on my hands.

Both my father and my younger sister’s boyfriend begged me for the recipe. I managed to walk my Dad through the process over the phone, and his version – substituting short ribs for the shanks – just about knocked his loafers off. As for my sister’s boyfriend, well, I promised I would get him the recipe, swore I would put it up on the blog. But then winter turned to spring, and soon enough braised beef shanks just seemed to be a bit much for the evenings following short-sleeved afternoons.

Last week I finally decided that it was about time I got this recipe up on the blog – it would be unfair to continue to keep it to myself. Excited though I was to share it, I was sort of dreading the process of making the dish. Somehow, with several months’ passing since the last time I’d created the dish, I arranged the idea of the recipe to be quite complicated in my head. When I got to work making the dish for dinner on Saturday, though, I found myself caught off guard again. The recipe, to my delight, was so much simpler than I had recalled, requiring only 10 minutes by the oven and an absolute minimum of chopping up front, followed by several hours of deep involvement with my latest novel as the beef simmered and stewed away.

As easy and tasty as this dinner was, I have to admit that dinner the following night was even easier, and just as good – these braised beef shanks are so genius when it comes to leftovers. Sunday night I reheated the beef and shredded it to serve inside little lettuce-cup tacos. Alongside some pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream, this made for an amazing dinner that required very little work. As an alternative, you could further reduce the braising liquid to a rich and sticky sauce, coat the shredded beef shanks in it, and serve the messy concoction on top of some potato buns. Actually, I think I might make this dish again next week so I can do just that.

Coffee-Chipotle Braised Beef Shanks

Serves 4-6

If you like to make use of a slow cooker to prepare simple dinners during the day, consider this recipe your new best friend. After broiling the beef shanks, combine all the ingredients in your slow cooker and set on low to cook while you are gone for the day.

Oh, and if you liked this recipe for beef shanks, you might want to check out my recipe for lamb shanks as well!


4 lbs. beef shanks

1 yellow onion, sliced into half-moons

1/2 cup water

1/2 pot (about 1 cup) strongly-brewed coffee

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried chipotles, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and chopped

1 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp fish sauce (substitute Worcestershire sauce)

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

Broil the beef shanks: Arrange beef shanks on a foil-lined baking sheet and season liberally with salt. Place sheet on the highest rack in your oven and broil for 7 minutes. Remove the baking sheet, carefully flip the shanks, and season the fresh side. Return to oven and broil for another 5 minutes. Scatter the onions across the bottom of a dutch oven (or other large oven-safe dish with a lid/foil) and add the 1/2 cup water.

Make the braising liquid: In a blender, combine the coffee, garlic, chipotles, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and olive oil. Blend until smooth.

Braise: Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Place the beef shanks over-top the onions in the dutch oven. Don’t worry if they will not fit perfectly – as the dish cooks they will break down and all find a place eventually. Pour the sauce over the shanks, and place the dish in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, turning the beef shanks every half hour or so. After the two hours have passed, turn the oven down to 200ºF and continue to braise for about another 1.5 hours, until the beef is very tender and easily falls away from the bone. (Note: If you are cooking early in the day, you can instead turn your oven down to its lowest heat setting and let the beef shanks hang out there all day.)

Reduce the sauce: Remove the shanks and place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Place the dutch oven over high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the braising liquid has reduced to a thicker sauce, adding the butter at the end to finish. Strain the sauce (optional) and serve over the shanks.





Miso Salmon | Cooking With Bells On

Weeknight Dinner: Miso Salmon + Learning to Cook for One

Written in fine print beneath the title of a recipe: Serves 4 to 6.

Oh, this recipe makes enough for four people, and I’m only cooking for myself tonight… I guess I’ll keep looking.

Sound familiar?

This was the scenario I found myself in night after night when I first began cooking. At the time, I had decided that I wanted to get in the habit of daily preparing meals for myself. I knew already that I enjoyed cooking, and I wanted to develop a practice around this hobby that would allow me to focus my time and energy exclusively on self-care – something I really needed, in those days.

I wanted to be able to plan my meals around recipes that appealed to me in cookbooks and magazines, but I was constantly hindered by this obstacle that lurked on every page: Serves 4 to 6. I couldn’t understand why, no matter where I looked, I could not find recipes that would show me how to prepare a meal to serve one diner. I mean, having friends over to share a meal is great, but nobody does that every night – why were recipes not acknowledging that many of us have to cook for only one or two the rest of the time?

Eventually I gave up on recipes altogether, realizing that I was never going to find exactly what I was looking for in the pages of any book or magazine. I began to regard printed recipes as sources of inspiration that could teach me new techniques or ingredient pairings. Once I made this shift, the number of options for meals I could prepare, whether for just myself or a full table of guest, expanded infinitely.

This Miso Salmon was one of the first ‘Serves 1’ meals I perfected. I believe my original inspiration came from David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, wherein he describes liberal use of a miso butter concoction across myriad dishes in the Momofuku kitchens. I like to smear a thick coat of the salty umami-rich miso butter over a piece of fatty fish before roasting the fish in a hot oven. As the fish cooks, the fat from the salmon oozes up and mingles with the creamy miso butter as the miso butter itself begins to melt and char. It’s such a crazy simple dish – only three ingredients – and yet it works so well, making for a beautiful meal that could easily serve a single diner or a crowd.

Tweet: I can't wait to make Miso Salmon from #cookingwithbellson! via @kemayellTweet: I can’t wait to make Miso Salmon from #cookingwithbellson! via @kemayell

Miso Salmon

Serves 1 or more

This recipe makes much more miso butter than you will need to use just for the salmon here, and that’s a good thing. Keep it on hand in the refrigerator for up to a year. I like to melt a bit of miso butter over pan-roasted brussel sprouts or mix some into scrambled eggs. 


6 tbsp (84g) butter, at room temperature

6 tbsp (90g) white miso

1 4-6 oz. salmon filet (per person)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make the miso butter: Mix together the butter and miso in a small bowl until well combined. Transfer to a storage container.

Roast the salmon: Spread a heaping spoonful of miso butter over the salmon filet and spread until you have an even 1/4″ layer. Roast on highest rack in oven for 6 minutes, then switch on the broiler and broil for another 1-2 minutes until the miso butter is golden brown.


Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

As much as I can, I try to plan my meals around what looks best at the store or farmer’s market, keeping in mind both cost and seasonality. The thing is, I have pretty high standards when it comes to quality – I like my produce organic, my seafood sustainable, and my meat grass-fed – and the ingredients that meet these standards can often be disappointingly expensive. While I’m okay with paying a premium for quality ingredients that taste better and are far more nourishing (really, see: 1, 2, 3), I don’t necessarily want to just give my wallet outright to Whole Foods.

To hack the cost side of things, I often buy more unconventional cuts of meat. Oxtail and liver are totally fair game for me when I’m shopping for protein, though I get that they might be a tough sell for some (most) of my readers. But lamb shanks? Oh, lamb shanks I know you’ll like.

Rosemary and Thyme Bouquet Garni

The idea for this dinner came about as I was walking through Whole Foods on Tuesday evening. Passing by the butcher case, I spied the lamb shanks – local, grass-fed, probably kissed by unicorns – for six dollars a pound. Alongside the shanks were more conventional cuts like legs and chops, but at double and almost triple the price, respectively. There wasn’t even a decision to make. I asked the butcher to wrap up the shanks, grabbed some vegetables, and headed home.

Dinner came together without much work, though the finished dish might certainly have people thinking otherwise. After the meat was seared and the vegetables sauteed (fifteen minutes at most), the lamb simmered away without fuss for two hours. If I had a slow cooker, maybe I would have left the lamb to cook gently there while carrying on with my day. Before serving, I quickly boiled down the broth to make a sauce, to which I added butter and peas at the very end.

Served over mashed white sweet potatoes, the final meal was something I felt good about serving, meeting all my persnickety high standards. But instead of costing the thirty-five dollars it might have run me at a restaurant, I was able to put each plate on the table for about a quarter of the price. Total win.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

Serves 4

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

As I mentioned above, you could certainly prepare this recipe in a slow cooker. To do so, first sear the shanks and saute the vegetables in a hot pan. Transfer these items to the crock pot, and proceed with the recipe as described. Before leaving the house, set the slow cooker to low. When you return in the evening, you should find the lamb shanks cooked and falling-off-the-bone tender.

I served this recipe over mashed white sweet potatoes, which were amazing. If you can’t find white sweet potatoes, go ahead and mash plain sweet potatoes or even regular potatoes. I imagine this would be quite delicious over risotto, as well.


2 tbsp neutral oil (I used coconut oil)

4 lamb shanks

1 leek

3 handfuls mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and oyster, though plain button will work just fine)

5 garlic cloves

Rosemary, half a handful of sprigs

Thyme, half a handful of sprigs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Sear the lamb shanks: If you can, bring the lamb shanks out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to start cooking and allow them to come to room temperature. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil and beginning to smoke. Season the shanks with salt and pepper, and place them in the pot seasoned-side down. Reseason the top side of the shanks in the pot, and sear them in a pan for about five minutes so that they take on some golden brown color. Flip and sear the other side for an additional five minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.

Saute the vegetables: Halve and rinse the leek, then thinly slice white to light green portion. Slice the mushrooms. Smash the garlic cloves and remove the skins. Add all the vegetables at once to the pot (over the oil used from the lamb) and season with salt and pepper. Saute until leeks go a little transparent and garlic turns golden and fragrant. Stir in the Dijon mustard.

Add the herbs and broth: Get together your rosemary and thyme in a parallel pile and tie them into a bunch with some twine. Add them to the pot, along with the chicken broth. The broth should almost cover the shanks – if it does not, add some water or additional stock. Cover, and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for two hours: Stir and rearrange the shanks once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Make the sauce: Remove the shanks from the pot. Pluck out and discard the herb bouquet. Do your best to skim out most of the vegetables (so that you don’t boil them to mush) and set them aside in a small bowl. Bring the broth to a boil and allow the broth to reduce for about 10 minutes, at which point you should have only 1/2 of concentrated broth left in the pot. Whisk in the butter, and add the peas.

Serve: Serve the lamb shanks atop the leek and mushrooms. Spoon over the sauce. Devour.