As the cold winter days become more frequent, my food thoughts start moving towards rich, slow cooked, tasty meals, which we associate with secondary cuts. However, there is nothing secondary about beef cheeks if they are treated correctly.
When braised low and slow, the collagen breaks down into gelatin and as a result, you get melt in your mouth, tender and delicious moist beef. Perfect with buttery potato mash or celeriac and with the addition of something like pickled mushrooms to cut through the richness, this dish works extremely well.
Braised Beef Cheeks with Pickled Mushrooms (serves 12)
The beef cheek is the muscle that lines the upper and lower jaw. It is a very tough, yet lean piece of meat.
4kg beef cheek
5 litres beef stock
1kg mirepoix (a finely diced mixture of onions, carrots, celery)
3 bay leaves
8-10 sprigs thyme
1 litre red wine
500g tomato paste
Sauté mirepoix in a little oil in a deep braising dish. Place beef cheeks on top, add the rest of the braising ingredients, cover and braise overnight at 100°C. Gently remove from liquid and press. Chill until set then, if using for individual platings, divide into portions. Pass the stock and all the braising liquids through a fine sieve. Pour into a pan and simmer until reduced to sauce consistency. Reheat the braised beef cheek portions in the sauce. Plate in portions and serve with pickled mushrooms.
250g oyster mushrooms, left whole
125g shitake mushrooms, sliced
250ml white wine vinegar
60g brown sugar
1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 small red onion
Finely slice onion and place in saucepan with mustard, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil. Pour over mushrooms and leave to chill. To serve, drain, then garnish with radish slices and a scattering of micro radish and sorrel leaves.