Beef Cheeks- the most tender meat you’ll ever eat!
The first time I tried Beef Cheeks was at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, South Australia- a small town (or I’d call it a ‘place’ rather than a town) – a squllion miles from anywhere in the Australian Outback. Looking at the menu there, I decided to pass up the ‘Red Curry of Goat’ and the ‘Mixed Feral Grill’ which consisted of Kangaroo Fillet, Emu Fillet Mignon and Camel Sausage, all thrown together on a plate.
Instead, I decided to try the ‘Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine’- I had never heard of eating Beef Cheeks before but decided to give it a go- what the heck, I could always fall back on the Goat Curry if it didn’t work out. I’m glad I did try it because this meat was the most tender I had ever eaten- the meat almost seems to melt in your mouth and the wine sauce makes it even more delicious!
As lovers of good food, most of us will sometimes go to great lengths to find the most tender and succulent of meats to eat and will pay up to $40 per kilo ($18 per pound) for a prime fillet of beef. But did you know that Beef Cheeks only cost around $9 per kilo ($4 per pound) and you can get the same tenderness as a fillet? The only thing is you will have to order the Beef Cheeks from your butcher- I have never seen them for sale in Australian or American supermarkets and it can take awhile for them to arrive. The good news is that you can also substitute other cuts of beef for this recipe, such as beef brisket or shoulder.
For this recipe, the beef cheeks are first marinated in red wine for at least 12 hours, then cooked in a wine/stock liquid for at least 2 hours, until the meat is tender and ‘flakes apart.’ The remaining cooking liquid is then reduced and thickened slightly, then served with the meat. Best served with creamy mashed potatoes on the side.
Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine
4 beef cheeks, trimmed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 8 black peppercorns
- 3 cups (750 ml) red wine
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) port or cognac
The Braising Liquid/Sauce
- Vegetables from the marinade
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups (500 ml) red wine from the marinade
- 3 cups (750 ml) beef stock
- 1 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
- Pre-heat oven to 360 F (180 C).
- Trim the beef cheeks of all fat and sinew and place into a deep bowl or saucepan.
- Prepare the marinade: Chop the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and then scatter these veggies and the peppercorns over the beef cheeks.
- Bring the wine and port to a boil in a saucepan; lower the heat and let simmer for a few minutes. (Boiling helps to reduce the acidity of the wine). Remove from the heat and let cool, until warm to the touch.
- Pour the warm marinade over the meat and vegetables. Let cool for a bit longer, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours (the longer, the better).
- Prepare the braising (cooking) liquid: remove the meat from the marinade and then strain the veggies; you now have the three components: the meat, the veggies and the remaining wine marinade.
- Season both sides of the beef cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat some olive or peanut oil in a dutch oven or large braising pan over high heat; reduce the heat slightly and brown the meat for about 1 minute on each side (the beef cheeks can burn easily, so be careful). Remove the meat and set aside.
- Now add the reserved vegetables to the pan and ‘sweat’ them over the heat until they are translucent in color. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 more minute.
- Return the beef cheeks to the pan and then add the wine from the marinade, the beef stock, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Bring the mixture to the boil, , reduce the heat and let simmer for a few minutes Cover with lid and place in pre-heated oven for at least 2 hours until the meat is very tender and flaky. Occasionally check the level of the braising liquid during the cooking; if the liquid has evaporated too quickly, add more marinade to the pan as required.
- Finish the sauce: When ready, remove the pan from the oven, remove the beef cheeks from the pan and keep warm. Strain the veggies from the remaining braising liquid and transfer to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Continue until the liquid has thickened to a medium consistency.
- To serve, slice the meat on a plate and ladle over the sauce. Servce with creamy mashed potatoes.