October 25th, 2012
It’s definitely the time of year when you start to crave thick, unctuous casseroles and mashed potato. Pig cheeks fit the bill perfectly – when braised in stock for several hours they literally melt in your mouth. I’d go as far as to say that they are one of the best parts of a pig.
Braised Pig Cheeks recipe (serves 3 or 4):
1 1/2 lb pig cheeks (14 cheeks trimmed)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 medium carrot (chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 teaspoonfuls of ground mixed herbs (a pinch of sea salt, black peppercorns, rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar)
2 bay leaves
a big squirt of tomato purée
a small squirt of anchovy paste
half to a pint of home made chicken stock (recipe here)
half a glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
olive oil for frying
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
1 heaped teaspoonful of English mustard powder
1 big pinch of crushed dried chilli
a little sea salt and cracked black pepper
Mix the flour and mustard with a little salt and pepper. Coat the pig cheeks in the seasoned flour before browning slightly in hot olive oil. Do this in a cast iron casserole with lid. Keep any left over flour, it will come in handy for thickening the sauce later.
Remove the cheeks to a plate and using the same oil and pan, sprinkle in a pinch of ground chilli and gently fry the onions until they go translucent. Stir in the celery, carrot and garlic
and after a minute or two return the cheeks to the pan.
Squirt in the anchovy paste and tomato purée. Pour in the wine, vinegar and stock. The cheeks should just be covered in liquid (they are paddling not swimming). Add the bay leaves and ground herbs, bring the pan to a simmer, put the lid on and place in a pre heated oven at 120ºC for 3 – 4 hours.
Check the cheeks every half an hour or so – stir in some of the seasoned flour if the sauce isn’t thick enough, but don’t add it all at once or it could be too much. Do keep tasting the sauce and add a little anchovy paste, tomato purée, vinegar etc., if it is lacking. The flavour will mellow during cooking and might need a little extra kick.
The cheeks are done when they are soft and tender – they should break open with a butter knife. Serve on a bed of mashed potato or celeriac with lots of the sauce.
Audrey came to supper and she brought a lovely bottle of organic Valencian tempranillo, Casa Lluch. It was the perfect accompaniment to pig cheeks.