Friday, 17 February 2012

Recipe - Red Wine Braised Ox Cheeks

Food magazines and cookery shows have been hailing the cheaper and more forgotten cuts of meat for some time now. It's not like the cuts have not been available, they have just been more likely to be ground down as part of some kind of processed offering.

Even with the quite frequent mentioning of these cuts they can be a bit hard to chase down if you have to rely on the 'bag openers' in what the supermarkets call their butcher/meat sections.

What you need is a good local butcher, which these days can be very hard to find. I'm lucky in the fact that since I moved I got Ray, who runs R G Park Butchers, as my local butcher.

I've been wanting to try and cook ox cheeks for quite some time so the other Saturday I nipped around the corner to see what was on offer in the butchery. I was quite pleased to be able to pick up two ox cheeks for Sunday dinner, it's nice when a plan comes together.

I had read up a bit on them and had come to realise that they have quite tough membranes, silverskins, that needs to be trimmed in order to avoid chewiness and other nasty issues. The ones on sale had not been tidied up yet but when Ray asked if I wanted to do that myself I could not really admit that I didn't have a real clue how to. ;)

Never mind, I thought I'd give it a go when I got home. This is when I realised that my course with Nathan really had paid off. It might not have been butcher quality, but the effort I put in was hundred times better than what I could have done before this course.

If you're not close enough to London, or maybe not even living in England, for it to be feasible to attend one of Nathan's courses, do try and find one locally. Getting better knife skills and understanding for butchery is really worth it if you are serious about your cooking.

I realise that I've been waffling on for a bit here so I better wrap it up. I just want to leave you with the recommendation to try your hand at slow cooking ox cheeks, the reward is immense for the small amount of work you have to put in for this. Not to mention that they are so cheap compared to many other cuts of meat. If you're worried about getting rid of the membranes, let your butcher do it. They're good at stuff like that... ;)

Ingredients (served 2, just adjust a bit if you cook for more)
2 ox cheeks, trimmed of fat and membranes (silverskin)

100g - 200g Pancetta (I used my homemade ones from here)

1 bottle of red wine
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Some peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 onion coarsley chopped
1 carrot coarsley chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 red chili, sliced

olive oil
1 - 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 - 3 turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
1l beef stock, approximately
Freshly ground pepper
Brandy (optional)

To serve
Creamy mash
Chopped curly parsley

Place the ox cheeks and pancetta in a big bowl and add in all the other ingredients for the marinade. Cover the bowl and let it sit in your fridge over night.

The next day, remove the cheeks and pancetta from the marinade. Sieve out the vegetables and herbs, making sure to keep the wine.

Pre-heat the oven to 140c.

Pour the wine into a pan and start reducing it. Remove it from the heat when it has reduced by half to two thirds.

Dry off the ox cheeks and pancetta with some kitchen towel. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and seal the ox cheeks on both sides, making sure to get them well and nicely browned. Pop them into a oven safe casserole dish. Now fry the pancetta, optionally adding some brandy, until they catch some colour as well. Pour this into the casserole dish as well.

Pour the reduced wine into the casserole dish, add in the vegetables, ground pepper and then enough stock to barely cover. Cover all of this with a double folded piece of parchment paper and put the lid on the casserole dish.

Put the dish into the oven and cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool down. Remove the fat that rises to the top.

If sauce is too thin for your liking, carefully remove the meat and veg from the casserole heat on the hob to reduce down the sauce. (Optionally use the normal trick with some flour mixed into water to thicken it a bit further.)

Return the meat and veg to the casserole and heat through gently before serving.

Serve with mash and chopped parsley.