The temperatures have finally plummeted here in Tokyo, and we're officially into stew season. This comforting miso stew is a twist on tonjiru but with beef shank instead of pork. Shanks are one of my favorite cuts of beef for stewing because they're marbled with connective tissue made up of collagen(a.k.a. gristle). When cooked for long enough, these connective tissues break down into gelatin, giving the meat a slippery melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes any stew luxuriously rich without being greasy or heavy.
The vegetables are flexible, and you can add almost any root vegetable that will withstand the long cooking time while absorbing all the meaty goodness from the braising liquid. Burdock, parsnips, and potatoes are all great options, so work with what you have in your pantry.
As for the miso paste, remember that it can vary significantly in terms of salinity and sweetness, depending on the brand. (I wrote an article explaining the differences in common types of miso you can check out here.) That's why it's crucial to taste the stew after dissolving the miso into the braising liquid and adjust accordingly. Aim for a flavor that is slightly saltier than a typical miso soup, but with a subtle sweetness that balances out the dish. With a little bit of tasting and tweaking, you'll nail it, and the reward is worth the effort.
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