Beef Cheeks are exactly what you think they are, the cheek muscle of a cow. They are tough as nails, with good reason if you think about how much they use it. It’s lean and mean, constantly getting exercise while grazing from sunup to sundown. They were a featured ingredient of “An Offal Good Dinner” in the course titled “The Ultimate Boon”.
Prepping the Beef Cheeks
Speaking of a prize, let me share my first experience with them. My butcher said no one had ever asked him for these and it was obviously true, because he gave them to me with the outer membrane attached. As I prepped the cheeks, I discovered the membrane was tougher than shoe leather and bonded tighter than epoxy. It took forever and only a knife sharpened well enough to shave with could separate the meat and membrane.
There was a lesson learned and the second time I ordered some cheeks I asked the butcher to finish the job. He laughed and asked, “do you know there are three membranes in a cheek”? I breathed a sigh of relief when I unwrapped the second batch and found them perfectly prepped.
Cooking the Cheeks
Beef cheeks are very easy to cook. I braised them and then let the slow-cooker work its magic. Eight hours later, with sauteed veggies, beef stock and wine I had delicious, fork tender meat and gravy. Was it the Ultimate Boon? Why yes, I believe it was.
- 4 TBL olive oil – divided
- 3 lbs beef cheeks
- 1 medium yellow onion – roughly diced
- 1 celery stalk – roughly diced
- 4 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 carrot – roughly diced
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 stems fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Prep the beef cheeks by removing any fatty membrane – if necessary
- Pat them dry and season both sides with salt and pepper
- Sear the cheeks on high heat in 3 TBL olive oil until both sides are nicely browned
- Remove the cheeks and set aside, loosely covered in foil to keep warm
- Turn down the heat to medium high and add the remaining olive oil.
- Saute the onion and carrot for about 3 minutes until the onions are beginning to become translucent, then add the celery and garlic and saute for 3 more minutes
- Pour the onion mixture into the slow cooker on low and place the cheeks on top.
- Pour the wine into your braising pan, return to high heat, bring to a simmer for 1 minute then deglaze the pan, scraping the browned bits off the bottom and mixing with the wine
- Add the wine and the beef stock to the slow cooker
- Tuck the herbs around the cheeks and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Cover and cook for 7-8 hours on low
- Remove the cheeks on a plate and discard the thyme and bay leaves
- Blend the liquids with an immersion blender, taste and adjust seasoning.
- Cook on high until it thickens if necessary
- Lower or turn off heat and return the cheeks to the gravy to keep warm until ready to serve
And just one more thing…
The next and final stage of our hero’s journey is “The Resurrection and Return”. Stay connected with me as we rejoin the known world at journey’s end.