Intro: Carrot Parsnip Beef Soup
This carrot, parsnip, and beef shank soup is the perfect soup for a cold, snowy, or rainy day. It takes very little active time, but simmers on the back of your stove for about four hours, perfuming the whole house. The ingredients will still have their structure even after the long cook time, but the flavors will have softened and mingled into something wonderful.
This recipe serves 8-16, depending on how hungry they are and how many side dishes you're offering.
ProTip: My favorite trick when heading to a rental house in snowy Tahoe is to pre-shred my veggies at home, vaccuum-pack them in sous vide bags with a bit of olive oil so the shredded carrots and parsnips don't oxidize, then stick them in the fridge until it's time to make soup. (You can't count on finding a good grater, much less a food processor, at a vacation rental - and I don't want to grate 8 pounds of veggies by hand anyway.) It's super-low effort, and amazing food for a crowd.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
- 2 pounds grass-fed beef shanks (usually 3-4 depending on size)
- 2 pounds carrots, shredded
- 2 pounds parsnips, shredded (select small parsnips, or remove woody center from larger ones)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons butter or oil of your preference
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups homemade beef stock (or 8 cups water plus 8 1-cup bullion cubes) (can swap out other stock - I used some chicken here)
- salt & pepper
- thyme and/or oregano (fresh or dried) - mostly optional but I find Thyme a necessary flavor
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- handful parsley, chopped
- full-fat sour cream (serve at the table)
- shredded cheddar cheese (optional and can distract from the flavor, but kids often like it)
- 8 quart dutch oven or soup pot
- grater or food processor with shredding disc (see intro note about shredding ahead of time for travel!)
- cutting board
- wooden spoon or spatula
Step 2: Chop & Soften Onions & Celery
Heat the pot on over medium heat, and drop in 2T butter or the fat of your choice.
Chop onions and celery into small bite-size bits, and dump into the butter with a pinch of salt to speed breakdown. Break two bay leaves in half, and add to the pot. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables are soft.
Step 3: Brown Beef Shanks
Increase heat to medium/high, scrape vegetables aside or remove from the pot temporarily, and place beef shanks directly on bottom of pan. You can scoop the veggies over top while they cook, but ensure the meat is directly in contact with the bottom of the pan for best browning. I'm too lazy to scoop the veggies out and get another plate dirty, so tend to do it this way.
When they start to get brown and curl up, scoot the veggies again and flip your shanks, again ensuring the meat is in direct contact with the pan bottom. If the meat starts to stick or burn, add a bit more butter to the pan and/or lower the heat. You can also deglaze with sherry or the booze of your choice before adding the root veg and stock.
Step 4: Add Carrots and Parsnips
Wash, peel, and grate your root vegetables, then add them to the pot with the browned meat and onion/celery mix. If the pot is hot and dry, you may want to add water or stock at the same time to avoid burning.
Note that big parsnips become woody in the center - select the smallest parsnips available. The best ones are similar in size to carrots. If you must deal with giant parsnips, you may need to cut out the centers. Note that this will change your weights - you want roughly the same amount of carrot and parsnip in your soup.
I generally prep my veggies and run them through the food processor while the meat is browning, or deputize the 3-year-old to do the shredding. As noted in the intro, you can pre-shred the veggies and vacuum-pack with a bit of olive oil to prevent oxidation if you're traveling and want the veggies ready when you arrive. Highly recommended.
Step 5: Add Stock and Simmer
Add stock or water/boullion to cover, and simmer on low/medium, stirring occasionally, for roughly 3 hours. Make sure the liquid always covers the vegetables - add more if needed.
Step 6: Chop Beef & Simmer Some More
Remove your beef shanks, and let them cool on the cutting board for a few minutes. Use a sharp knife to cut all meat and cartilage from the bone, then chop into small bite-size pieces. Return meat, cartilage, and bones to the pot and continue simmering for approximately another hour. Chop and add fresh thyme or oregano if you have them, as well as a half-teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
The meat will likely still be a bit tough, but further cooking will soften it up the rest of the way.
Step 7: Eat the Bone Marrow
Before returning the bones to the pot, pop out any bone marrow. Let it cool a bit, sprinkle with salt, and eat. You're making everyone else delicious soup - this is your treat. Consider sharing with your kids (their little brains are growing and could use the excellent fat!) but make sure you get at least one piece for yourself.
Step 8: Finish and Serve
When the beef is tender, adjust seasonings. Make sure there's enough salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano for your taste. If you need a bit more umami kick, add a bit more worchestershire sauce.
Remove bones and bay leaves, stir in a handful of chopped fresh parsley, and serve. I like to provide a tub of good (read: full-fat) sour cream for people to add to their soup bowls at the table. The fat is a great flavor binder, and it helps cool the hot soup more quickly.
This soup saves well and reheats beautifully. Microwave some for lunch the next day.