One rarely hears about beef cheeks. Everyone knows sirloin steak and filet mignon, and even oxtails and beef tongue have their followers, but beef cheeks seem to be neglected. We recently bought a few beef cheeks from the Clark Family Farm at the Port Angeles Farmers' Market and braised them using a variant on a Gourmet Magazine recipe. Beef cheeks have a rich meaty flavor, and properly prepared they are as tender as silk. We threw in a pack of oxtails we had missed the last time we cooked up a batch of oxtails, but the beef cheeks were the star of this show.
|Kind of scary looking
There's obviously a lot of flexibility here. We like lots of vegetables, so we add lots. You can probably add some garlic as well if you wish. You do want to remove the fell from the beef cheeks if it has one, as well as any extra fat. Also, we are lazy choppers, so we mainly just slice, except for really fat carrots.
- 4 tbsp olive oil (or so)
- 2 lbs (or so) beef cheeks with the fell removed, plus any oxtails you may have flopping around
- 6 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 6 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp cocoa or chocolate nibs or other unsweetened chocolate
- 2-3 cups dry red wine
- 1 large can whole tomatoes (28-32oz)
- salt and pepper to taste
This is a pretty generic beef recipe. You can cook beef cheeks, oxtails, short ribs and probably other cuts that benefit from long, slow braising this way.
- Use a pot, with a cover, that you can use on the stove top and in the oven. We use a big old Le Creuset. Heat it up on the stove top with a few tablespoons of oil and brown the meats on all sides. Do this is in a few batches, so you can caramelize the meat a bit. Raise the temperature gently, but you want that Maillard reaction. After browning each batch, put the meat aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Brown the vegetables over slightly lower heat. Don't panic if a brown crust forms on the bottom of your pot. Just use a plastic spatula and it should dissolve with the water beig released by the vegetables.
- Put the meat and any juices back in the pot. Add the cocoa powder and the wine and bring to a boil. Let it cook down a bit, but you'll want enough liquid so that the meat is largely submerged. Gourmet says to cook the liquid down to half its volume. We just boiled it for five or ten minutes and declared it ready.
- Then add the tomatoes with their liquid, some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil again, then put the pot, covered, in the oven for at least THREE hours. It can't hurt to cook it longer. Braised beef cheeks are not about cooking a pointe.
- Let it cool and stash it in the refrigerator overnight, or better yet, for a day or two. Remove any fat, reheat and serve.