Tender, Braised Beef in Creamy, Shiitake Mushroom & Cracked Peppercorn Sauce over Egg Noodles

(Serves about 4-6)

Ingredients:

3 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
3 ½ cups boiling water
2 large (1 ½ lb each) beef shanks with bone (about 3 pounds total)
• Sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons, plus ¼ teaspoon, cracked black peppercorns, divided use (smash until coarse, or pulse in spice grinder)
1 tablespoon, heaping, flour
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 cup beef stock, hot
¼ cup half & half
¼ cup lite sour cream
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided use
12 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained, and held warm

Preparation:

-Place the dried shiitake mushrooms into a large bowl, and pour the boiling water over them; cover the bowl, and allow the mushrooms to soak and rehydrate for 20 minutes; once rehydrated, strain the mushrooms and reserve the soaking liquid, or “mushroom stock” (about 1½ cups worth), and set aside; slice the rehydrated mushrooms, and set aside for a moment.

-Place the beef shanks onto a large plate or platter, and sprinkle both sides with about 1 ¼ teaspoons of sea salt, the ¼ teaspoon of the cracked black pepper and the heaping 1 tablespoon of flour; place a large heavy bottom braising pot over medium-high/high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the pot; once the oil is hot, add the beef shanks into the pot, and allow them to brown and caramelize for about 5-6 minutes on each side; once browned, remove the shanks from the pot, and set aside on a plate for a moment; next, reduce the heat to low, and add into the pot the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter; once hot and melted, add in the chopped onion and allow it to caramelize for a couple of moments, scraping up any tasty brown bits on the bottom of the pot; next, add in the garlic and stir, and once the garlic becomes aromatic, add a sprinkle of sea salt and the sliced shiitake mushrooms, and stir to combine; next, add in the hot beef stock plus the 1 ½ cups of reserved mushroom stock from the soaking, and add the browned beef shanks back into the pot, nestling them into the liquid/mushrooms; bring to the boil, then cover, and reduce the heat to low, and gently braise the beef for 2 hours; after 2 hours, remove the cover, and continue to braise for an additional 30 minutes to reduce the cooking liquid a little more; after the 30 minutes, turn the heat off, and allow the beef to sit undisturbed for about 30 minutes more to allow it to relax and slightly cool; next, remove the shanks, and using a fork and knife, carefully shred/chunk the beef into large, bite-sized pieces, and set aside for a moment (you can reserve the bone from the shank for a tasty treat for your doggy if you have one); to finish the sauce, whisk together the half & half with the sour cream in a small bowl, and then add it into the braising liquid in the pot and whisk to blend in; check the seasoning and add a pinch of salt, if necessary; finally, add the shredded/chunked beef back into the pot, and add in the remaining 1 ½  tablespoons of cracked black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, and stir to combine.

-To serve, combine the warm egg noodles with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley, and ladle the braised beef and sauce over top of the noodles.