Effortless Shank, Neck and Ears

IMG_8759Although I fancy myself highly zoophagous, I am not your typical meat eater. I love a good bloody petit filet at a high-class steak house now and again, (although not in the form my most recent steak house venture took) but I prefer to get my animal fat in the form of funky and creative bits. I will pick a good lamb shank over a New York strip, order a fabulous veal piccata instead of a chunk of beef tenderloin or opt for pig in every form over a chic and shredded short rib. In fact, the recent three-year-long pork belly fad in Los Angeles has been sweet nectar to my deepest desires.

To drive home this point, all I need to do is present a list of my favorite meat dishes I have eaten over the past year or so:

lamb neck at Bestia
-lamb shank at Root 246
-braised veal belly at Chi Spacca
-pig ear at (the now unfortunately defunct) Pigg
-headcheese at Gorge
pork belly on blue cheese mashed potatoes at Tinderbox

The problem with all of these items though, and the reason I have yet to master or whip them up at home, is that I will inevitably discover upon asking a waiter/waitress that the dish took some exorbitant amount of time and energy to prepare. Oh, that neck was braised for 18 hours on low heat to get that texture. Oh, those pig ears were brined for days in a top-secret solution of rare pickling spices we had to trek over mountains to procure. That kind of thing.

Luckily, I have a boyfriend who is not at all intimidated by the challenge of manipulating tenderness and poignant flavor out of meats and who knows a thing or two about cooking in his encyclopedic mind that those lesser foodies, like myself, might never sign up to try. When I moved in with him, he had one of those odd contraptions called a pressure cooker in his cabinet of tricks, and over the past year I’ve learned that it doubles as a supreme meat making machine.

My own experience with a pressure cooker was trying once to braise some short ribs when I lived alone in a beach bungalow. Let’s just say that evening ended badly with steam clouding my windows that did not stem from the ocean, a burned thumb, a charred hunk of meat, a horrible smell and only a bottle of wine for dinner after I had rendered just about everything in my stainless steel pot into baby lava rocks.

But the Cute Gardener, who does sane things like read directions, utilizes his pressure cooker to make the kinds of funky meat meals we don’t have time to slave hours over the stove for. Let’s face it, in today’s world of convenience and time as commodity, even patient foodies like us need to be able to whip up luxurious things on a whim. So far I’ve fallen for his Asian chicken stock pot, his braised beef ribs with falling apart marrow-soft bones and a few weeks ago, the be all – end all of my dreams –a Game of Thrones worthy lamb shank. Although it came to my table all in one piece, looking ready for battle between a caveman and a dinosaur, the minute I put my fork to its form, it easily shred into musky, dark pieces full of flavor that sublimely melted on my tongue.

Who needs to expend that much time and energy on technique and scientific heating strategies and temperature supervision over a whole afternoon on a week night when you can get the same results from a pressure cooker at one third the amount of all those resources? It may seem like a cheat or a lowbrow brother to the almighty crock-pot, but I am pretty sure I can still hear the hunger pangs and complaining of all those snobs who are still waiting for their supper while I am already digging in.

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