Portuguese Braised Deer Shank

4.93 from 40 votes
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Nothing like rainy days — days and days of rain — to bring out the braised meat urge in me. Storms slow us all down, and there must be some sort of aromatherapy going on when you fill your home with the smell of slowly cooking goodness. On such days, braised deer shank really does it for me.

A braised deer shank on a plate with sauce, ready to eat.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

There is nothing quite like a shank, whether it be lamb, beef, veal or, yes, deer. For the hunters out there, we all know that we really shouldn’t waste a deer shank, but shanks have so much sinew and connective tissue there really isn’t much to do with them. So most of us grind it for burger meat.

This is a shame, as my shank-eating friends will attest. Shanks, frankly, suck if not cooked slowly and for a long, long time. The only other thing you can do with a deer shank besides braise it is to put them in a stock, or the classic Taiwanese beef noodle soup. But well-browned deer shank, bathed in aromatic juices and served falling off the bone? Seriously good stuff.

Shanks always need a good sauce, but which sauce?

You need something bold for a shank, and I immediately thought about a shank recipe from my friend David Leite in his book The New Portuguese Table. Leite’s recipe has includes a lot of warm spices — cloves, cinnamon, allspice — as well as molasses. I love molasses.

Portuguese braised venison shanks on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Naturally I can’t leave well enough alone, so I modified Leite’s recipe by adding chiles and juniper berries, doubling the red wine called for and by finely pureeing the sauce at the end. Why puree? Because you can use the leftover sauce to dress pasta.

Typical sides for a braised deer shank would be a mashed thing and a green thing. Why mess with the formula? I really like mashed celery root, maybe with a couple tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and a knob of butter — if you’ve never done the mascarpone and mashed veggie thing, try it! Heaven. And for the greens, any greens you like; lambsquarters are my favorite.

The sauce is sweet-savory-spicy-hot-rich (did I mention there are four ounces of pureed, simmered homemade bacon in it?). The deer shank you can eat with just a fork — no knife needed. Silky-smooth and super flavorful.

Could you do this recipe with a lamb shank? You bet, although it will not be as flavorful because the animal was young. If that’s what you have, I suggest making my Greek venison shank recipe instead. This recipe works better with a hunk of beef shank, or the shank from a hog. Hunters, don’t hesitate to use this recipe on wild boar or elk shanks, too.

If you want to go another, lighter route, try my recipe for braised venison shank with garlic

Close up of a braised deer shank with a brown sauce on a plate.
4.93 from 40 votes

Braised Venison Shanks, Portuguese Style

A properly braised whole deer shank is every bit as tender as a lamb shank. These venison shanks are so tender you could eat them with a fork, and the sauce is so rich you’ll want to save the leftovers for pasta sauce.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Portuguese
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 small deer shanks, or 2 large ones
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries, cracked
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 hot dried chile
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, minced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock or venison stock
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • Salt

Instructions 

  • Salt shanks and set aside. In a heavy pot with a lid (a Dutch oven will do), put spices and herbs in with the wine and molasses. If your bacon had the rind on it, put that in, too. Turn the heat to medium-low. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Pour olive oil into a second pan set over medium heat. Fry the bacon slowly, turning all sides to get crispy. As each piece crispifies, toss it into the pot with the wine. Do not let the wine pot go past a gentle simmer. When the bacon is done, brown the shanks on all sides except the one with the bone; this helps the shank stay together after long cooking. Take your time on this one, and do this over medium heat. It could take 20 minutes. Move the shanks to the wine pot, bone side sticking up.
  • Put the onions in the frying pan and turn the heat up to high. Toss to combine. You will notice the onions will deglaze the pan. After about 3 minutes like this, add the garlic and toss to combine. Continue cooking until you hear the sound change: That’s onions losing enough moisture to begin browning. Cook another minute or two.
  • Pour in the stock and mix it well with the onions. Bring to a furious boil and make sure you’ve scraped everything off the bottom of the pan. Add to the wine pot, mixing in with all the other ingredients. Make sure the shanks are still bone side up. Cover and cook in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. Venison, being wild, is difficult to gauge doneness — you might have shot an old deer, or a yearling. Each will require different cooking times.
  • When the meat is almost falling off the bone, remove it gently and tent it with foil. Fish out the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and as many cloves, peppercorns, allspice and juniper berries as you can in a few minutes. It’s OK if you don’t get them all.
  • Puree the sauce in a blender or pass it through a food mill set on a medium setting. It should be thick. Pour over the shanks and serve at once with mashed root veggies and something green.

Notes

Remember that the leftover sauce is amazing over mashed potatoes or pasta. 

Nutrition

Calories: 620kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 588mg | Potassium: 1236mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 33IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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67 Comments

  1. Dig this recipe, extra rich. I’m not a fan of always adding bacon to everything in wild game…..it has its place, but many over do it. Here it’s perfect, it adds another layer of depth and savoriness to the sweetness of the molasses.

  2. This was the first shank recipe I ever did, and I keep coming back to it again and again. Melissa complains a little about a whole bottle of wine in the recipe, so sometimes I say why the hell not and I go with that, sometimes the two cups. Amazing flavors!

  3. Another favorite shank recipe! (Can we start calling you Shank Shaw yet??) I followed the recipe in the book, Buck Buck Moose, which is slightly different and used a black bear shank. Best meal I’ve made all year! My 3 year old was sucking on the bone at dinner and I licked my plate clean. So yum!

  4. I’m not a fan of cloves, allspice and cinnamon in meat dishes. But I love lamb shanks; and all of the recipes that I have tried from Hank’s book and website have been nothing short of outstanding. So I decided to give this a go. The shanks were unbelievably tender and juicy. But the sauce had way too much of a potpourri taste and smell for me. But I still have to give this 5 stars, because if you like those spices, you will love this recipe. I have a couple of larger deer shanks left from this fall, and I plan on making this again substituting the spices with sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

  5. I followed the recipe as written and my shanks turned out amazing. As others stated I previously did the painful process of deboning and grinding but never again. The one question I have is how much dried hot pepper and what kind of dried hot pepper? I used habanero and it was on the too hot side. I shot a young deer and the cook time was 2 hours to get fall off the bone tender.

    1. Kerry: Ah. This is a Portuguese dish and they don’t do serious heat. I’d use a pinch of cayenne and go from there. You can always add more.

    1. I love this recipe too. Only it takes me a lot longer than 20 min to prep?, and I almost always mix up one of the steps. I’m using two elk shanks and two lamb shanks and needed the entire box of beef broth.

  6. I have been boning shanks and cooking them in a crock pot for 6+ hours. Am I missing a lot of flavor by boning it out? I just see wasted freezer space with freezing bones.

    1. John: You miss a bit of structure and collagen by boning them out. But you can still make pretty much any shank recipe with a boned out shank.

  7. To: Hank –
    Thanks for your cookbooks – I have all 3! I’ve tried this recipe in a pressure cooker for 35min and the Tunisian shank recipe in oven for 2-3 hours. Whitetail shanks used both times, and meat covered half way or more with the liquid. Both methods turned out dry and the tendons didn’t melt away much. Any tips?

    1. Stuart: I can’t speak to the pressure cooker, but on the oven recipe, was the pot covered? Did you turn the shanks during cooking so each side was bathed in the sauce? As for tendons not melting, that is a question of time. They will. I am surprised it did not happen in 3 hours.

  8. I love this bloke. Great recipes and very readable style. The marriage of hunter-gathering and fine writing is a joy: it’s like Hemingway meets, um, another Hemingway.

  9. Ok if you are reading the recipes for shanks and aren’t sure what you want to try first…you have found it! It was a rainy day in Texas and I had a few shanks from a buck I harvested last week. Started the morning making some venison broth from Hanks Buck Buck Moose, if you are even mildly curious about venison stock try his basic venison stock as it is as good as it gets! Once the stock was done I moved onto the Portuguese braised shanks. After 5 hrs on the shanks we plated them with roasted sweet potatoes & parsnips with a side of spinach and creamy polenta. Pulled the shanks out of the dutch oven, removed the bays leaves and cinnamon sticks, added some fresh stock and made a gravy out of the sauce. I can’t express in words how good it is…you just gotta try it.
    I love to hunt and Hank has taken my passion for the outdoors and brought it inside after the hunt is over. Field to table is so rewarding and better than anything you can buy in a store. Who knew a lean cut of meat could taste so tender, buttery and delicious. Thank you Hank for sharing another masterpiece, field to table never tasted so good!

  10. Making this today. Again. This is maybe our sixth time. It’s so delicious that the shanks are my favorite cut now.

    Tomorrow I’ll mix the leftover sauce with dark beer for the gravy in shepherds pie.

  11. Wow! This was a rich and delicious way to treat my venison shanks. I’m a fan from Canada and I enjoy your work. Thank you Hank.

  12. I don’t know what was better; the venison shanks or the goose legs I added to the pot. Delicious! No more struggling to bone the meat from venison legs.

  13. wow! this is a wonderful dish. I had to make a couple of adjustments as I only had 1 venison shank weighing in at 2.2 lbs . I halved the all spice, pepper corns and juniper berries. I also kept this going for 4 hours and thickened with corn flour. at the end.
    really good and easy to make.

  14. This is currently my favorite recipe on the site! I made this using a 3 year old buck, juniper berries from my ranch, homemade mustang wine, homemade venison bone broth, and a Pasilla pepper. The sauce is insane! I kept eating it after the meat was gone! I served this over mashed cheddar cauliflower with a side of fresh beans. The perfect meal.