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.





Thai Green Curry With Crispy Roast Chicken | Cooking With Bells On

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Bok Choy

It is way too tempting to order in for dinner in New York City, particularly when the temperature outside is 12° and any of 200 or so nearby restaurants will bring food to you at the click of the button.

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken and Basil and Lime Wedge Garnishes

But now that Spring has arrived it’s time to muster up a little resilience against the lure of take-out containers and bicycle delivery men. In the name of saving a little more money to go towards our dream projects, Brian and I sat down a week ago and decided that our beloved takeout had to go. You see, even though we eat well, we still have a general budget of how much we spend on food each week; our weekly $30+ ramen/sushi/thai delivery indulgence ends up tacking an extra 20% onto that budget. Listen guys, if I learned anything from my job in finance, it’s that you don’t want drive up your expenses.

Crispy Roast Chicken, Basil, and Lime Wedges to Top the Curry

Well, delivery dinner may be so last week, but that doesn’t mean the food we had delivered has to go, as well. Recently I found myself craving some warm and spicy thai green curry, and so I sent myself into the kitchen to recreate this take-out favorite. As I was planning the dish, it occurred to me that I might be able to improve it a bit by giving the protein some respect and cooking it separately. For the rest of the dish, I played it fairly traditional, staying true to the flavors I craved – peppery ginger, fragrant lemongrass, creamy coconut milk, and tender Asian vegetables. What resulted was a lush bowl of thai curry, topped with a bit of succulent roast chicken that had a perfectly crispy skin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken, Mushrooms, and Bok Choy

Serves 2

Thai Green Curry With Crispy Roast Chicken | Cooking With Bells On

I loved this curry served on its own, almost as more of a soup. However, if you feel like you’re missing some starch, or if you just can’t imagine having curry without anything to sop up all the delicious liquid, go ahead and serve it over rice.

I noted in the ingredients that the fish sauce is optional… but saying so pains me. I made this dish twice, once forgetting the fish sauce and once including it, and I have to say that the fish sauce really brings the dish together. It’s like the anchovies in Caesar salad – you don’t know that they’re there, but it definitely doesn’t taste right without them. Having said that, if you’re the type that is iffy about the idea of anchovies in your salad dressing, then you can certainly leave the fish sauce out of your curry. You can find fish sauce (nam pla) in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores.


2 chicken thighs, skin-on and preferably bone-in

2 tbsp butter or ghee

sea salt and red chili flakes

1 14 oz can coconut milk

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 finger-sized piece of ginger, cut into 3 strips vertically

2 stalks lemongrass, split lengthwise and bashed with the blunt side of a heavy knife

2 tsp. fish sauce (optional)

1 cup chicken broth

2 large handfuls shiitake mushrooms, sliced (substitute cremini or button, if necessary)

2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise

small handful basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, to garnish (optional)

2 lime wedges, to garnish

Sear and roast the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375º and place a pan over high heat. Allow the pan to heat for several minutes until it’s blazing hot. Meanwhile, coat the chicken thighs with the butter or ghee and season the skin with salt and chili flakes. (The best way to do this is to allow one hand to get messy with the butter and use the other hand for seasoning.) Place the chicken thighs skin side down in the hot pan and season the upward facing side. Sear for two or three minutes until the skin gets crispy, then flip and cook for two more minutes on the opposite side. Remove the chicken to a baking dish and place in the oven to finish cooking, about 15 minutes.

Prepare the curry: While the chicken is cooking, place a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Allow to reduce by 1/3. After the coconut milk has concentrated a bit you can whisk in the curry paste. Add the ginger slices, bashed lemongrass stalks, fish sauce, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Once the ginger and garlic have steeped and fully perfumed the curry base, fish them out with tongs.

Add the vegetables: Set the chicken aside to cool a bit after it has finished cooking in the oven. With the curry base over medium heat, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for about three minutes, until they begin to get tender. Add the bok choy to the curry, cover, and allow to steam for another two or three minutes. The curry is ready when a fork will pierce the bok choy with little resistance.

Serve: Slice the chicken thighs, discarding bones. (Actually, don’t discard – toss them in a freezer bag for future broth-making!) Serve the curry in large bowls, over rice or on its own. Place the chicken meat over the curry, and garnish with basil and lime wedges.