Braised Beef Cheeks in Red Wine
Beef cheeks are the perfect cut to braise. The tough muscle breaks down with slow cooking to a rich, silky and gelatinous delight. Taking time to prepare this dish over 2-3 days will give you the best results and guarantee a perfect result every time – it is not hard, it just takes time.
You can also add other ingredients as you like such as bacon, mushrooms and even some cognac to turn it into the gourmand’s version of Beef Bourguignon.
The ‘secret ingredients’ of pureed carrots and gremolata can be used in any stewed dish to add a depth of flavour and a luscious mouth feel, as well as a fresh and zesty condiment to your slow-cooked meal...
...or you could also just dump everything together in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours for a pretty good ‘express version’!!
Feeds 4 peopleIt's not hard but it does take time...24hrs marinating
4 trimmed beef cheeks (1-1.2kg)
1 bottle pinot noir or Burgundy (the better the wine, the better it will taste)
1 large brown onion
1 stick celery
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
4 juniper berries
½ star anise
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
60 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon plain flour
1.5 litre beef stock
2 large carrots (400g)
2 garlic cloves
¼ bunch parsley
Zest of half an orange
1-2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1-2 days before you wish to serve the dish, place the beef cheeks (patted dry) in a large bowl with the whole bottle of red wine, diced onion, diced celery, chopped garlic, all chopped herbs and spices roughly ground in a mortar and pestle (no salt and pepper). Cover with cling film and leave to marinate for at least 24 hours.
The following day, pre-heat oven to 160 degrees.
Strain beef cheeks from the marinade (keeping the marinade) and separate the meat from the veg and herbs.
Heat a heavy based pan or casserole dish (Le Cruset cast iron pot is perfect) on the stove on a med-high heat and add half the oil (30ml).
Chop beef cheeks into 2-3 pieces each across the grain and increase heat in pan until almost smoking (you can leave them whole if you would rather a portion that required cutting on the plate).
Add half the meat and brown well on all sides, then remove browned meat and repeat with the rest of the meat (keeping the meat in the lid of the pot is good to save washing up and catch all the juice!).
Reduce heat back to medium and add remaining oil (30ml), then lightly brown all vegetables turning constantly and scraping caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Add flour and continue to cook veg for 4-5 mins until they start to soften (add cubes of bacon at this stage for Bourguignon and cook until they brown). Remove everything from the pan and drain away as much excess oil as possible from vegetables and the bottom of the pan.
Return pan to high heat and add a quarter of the wine marinade to de-glaze the pan, again scraping all the burnt bits off the bottom, and then incorporate the veg and flour mix. Add all the remaining marinade and boil for 10 minutes to reduce by half. You will need to skim any scum that comes to the top as the wine reduces.
Add beef stock, some salt and pepper, and the meat, making sure all the cheeks are covered by the marinade in the pot. Bring the the liquid to the boil.
Cover the liquid with a piece of grease-proof paper cut to the size of the pot so it forms a seal with the cooking liquor. Double over some greaseproof paper and put it under the lid of the pot so it forms a good seal.
Place the whole pot in the oven for 3-4 hours - cook until a stainless skewer or fork falls through the meat with no effort. Once cooked, turn off the heat and cool cheeks in the pot/stock overnight in the fridge (if possible) or until you are ready to serve.
To Serve (use your secret ingredients)
Boil 2 chopped carrots in salted water until very soft and blend with a stick blender or food processor - put aside.
To make the gremolata: chops garlic cloves as finely as you can with a knife (do not use a garlic crush) and put in a small bowl. Zest half an orange into the bowl and then add the finely chopped parsley and chopped anchovy fillets. Stir all ingredients around to mix – put aside.
Remove cooking pot from the fridge and skim as much fat as you can from the top of the pot. You should be able to lift any fat from the top of the pot with a knife or large spoon if you left it overnight – discard all fat.
Warm entire pot on the stove until the sauce returns to a liquid form.
Remove all the meat and then strain off all the vegetables, herbs and any other ‘bits’. Return the strained cooking liquor to the heat and reduce volume by half (add button mushrooms before reduction stage for Bourguignon).
Reduce heat to a simmer, add pureed carrot to thicken and sweeten the liquor, season to taste with salt and pepper and add meat to warm through.
Serve on a bed of mashed potato (or mashed celeriac or parsnip if you prefer) with steamed green beans and sprinkle with gremolata just before serving.