Braised Pork Cheeks that Will Make Your Head Spin
Remember when I told you that you could apply the recipe for coq au vin to other meats? Well hold onto your oven mitts, because here’s one that’s going to make your head spin.
Why? Because it’s rich. It’s soft. It’s smooth. It’s unctuous. It really wows anyone who dares to put a bit into their mouth.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “Gross, pork cheeks.” And I don’t blame you. In the States, I almost never saw this either at the Amish butcher I went to, nor at many restaurants. I think I saw it on Food Network shows here or there, but never in person. It turns out it’s a deeply flavorful cut that’s actually easy to cook, as long as you give it the required amount of time.
There are only a couple of extra steps here than in the coq au vin, and I modified the ingredients a bit based on what I had handy at the time. Also, please note I forgot to include some of the ingredients in the photo below, notably garlic and tomato paste.
As with the coq au vin, the good news is that once you get it into the oven, you can go relax, drink a glass or two of wine, and come back to a perfectly cooked dinner in about 90 minutes. Yes, it takes a while to get this piece of meat cooked, because it starts off very tough and chewy. But once done, the pieces fall apart, and are tender enough to be pulled apart with only a fork.
And if you have any leftovers, you can use them to make pretty damn good tacos, too! Just shred the meat, put it into a flour or corn tortilla, add whatever fixings you like, and go to town. But then again, you’re not likely to have any leftovers.
Here’s the recipe.
Braised pork cheeks
- About 1.5 pounds of pork cheeks, silver skin removed
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-5 green spring onions (bulbs only, quartered)
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, pealed and minced
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube
- 1 cups red wine
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 F (about 190 C).
- Season pork cheeks with salt and pepper. Let it absorb for about 10-15 minutes.
- Dredge pork cheeks in flour, shaking off excess.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a deep sauté pan on medium-high heat. Brown pork cheeks on both sides. Remove and set aside when done browning.
- Lower temperature to medium and 2 tablespoons olive oil add diced onion bulbs. Sauté until soft and translucent.
- Add carrots and and garlic, and sauté until soft, approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s o.k. if the carrots get a little charred, but don’t go crazy with that. If it looks too dry, add a small amount of olive oil.
- Add red wine, bouillon cube, an additional cup of water and tomato paste. Stir until well blended.
- Add sprigs of thyme and bay leaf.
- Return pork cheeks to pan.
- Cover and place in oven for approximately 90 minutes, turning pork cheeks every 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven when pork cheeks can be easy penetrated with a fork. Sauce should be thick by now, but if it needs to be thicker, remove chicken from pan and reduce the sauce on the stove. Remove thyme sprigs and bay before serving.
- 5 quart (or larger) deep sauté pan
Here are some more pics of the process. As always, let us know if you cook this by sharing a picture on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the #eatfrenchclub hashtag.