Or, yummy unctuous guest post (the food, not the writer)
Tracy’s recent blog on chicken in a can revealed a surprisingly high level of food squeamishness among her readers. It seems that you are not fans of the shiny gristly alien bits that hang off untrimmed meat. Not me, I reserve my distaste for cream of can casseroles, gravy from a box, and powdered Italian seasoning. Those shiny gristly alien bits are what give sauces and stews body and flavour without resorting to powders and cans. So you can imagine my delight when my butcher offered me four beef cheeks last week. Unlike fish cheeks, which are incredibly tender and sweet, beef cheeks are a serious hunk of muscle. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time watching cattle cow about their daily routine and 98% of that routine is chewing. Which is why you never see rare grilled beef cheek or ox cheek carpaccio. But it does make the cheek perfect for long slow cooking into an unctuous sauce, tender enough to cut with a spoon. Admittedly it’s not something you’d want to cook in the middle of summer but as a winter warmer it can’t be bettered. The following recipe is more of a guide than a recipe, substitute ingredients at will, my only stipulation is that you stick with fresh ingredients – no jars, packets or cans.
Start preparing the meat three days before you plan on eating it.
So take your beef cheeks and trim off the excess fat. Leave some fat.
Slash through the top of the cheek so the meat doesn’t curl during searing. Rub the cheeks with salt and sugar, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours… Pour off any blood.
Add your flavourings – thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries, orange rind and cover the meat with red wine (or dark beer). Leave overnight.
Heat a heavy based fry pan and add a little oil. Remove cheeks from marinade and sear one at a time until well browned on both sides. Place in a heavy casserole large enough to hold the cheeks snugly. Sprinkle with flour, about a tbsp per cheek. Brown a couple of roughly chopped onions (halved is fine) and a few halved carrots in the fry pan with the herbs from the marinade. Add to the beef. Pour the wine from the marinade into the fry pan to deglaze, bring to boil and pour over the meat. Add extra wine, water or stock to cover the meat. Simmer uncovered for one hour. Add more wine or water if necessary, cover, and place in a slow oven to cook for three hours… By this stage the meat should be tender enough to break apart with a spoon. Leave overnight.
The next day remove the fat from top of pan. Don’t be alarmed to find your chilled casserole is the consistency of rubber. This is a good thing and what makes the sauce so satisfying when heated. Reheat slowly until sauce is flowing freely. Take meat and carrots from pan, then strain out the onions and herbs and discard. Return sauce to pan, taste for seasoning (you may need extra salt and pepper), add chopped parsley and return meat and carrots to sauce to warm. Roughly break up the meat, you don’t want to pulverise it.
Serve with mashed potatoes or over pasta…
If you don’t have three days to cook skip the salting, and marinating, and don’t leave overnight… It will still taste great.
Left overs are delicious as a beef pie.
Gaby is a former public servant, haphazard housekeeper, devoted wife, and slightly distracted mother. She will cook anything and eat almost anything. She has no blog for me to link to, I wish she did, it would be a foodie’s dream come true.