The cheek is a hard-working, lean facial muscle housing an abundance of connective tissue.
What to look for when buying beef cheeks
Your local grocer & butcher may not always keep beef cheeks on hand, but they can definitely order them in for you. They should be plump and pink and approximately 350-400gr in size. Trimming beef cheeks from sinew and fat is of the utmost importance, your skilled butcher should be able to assist you there as well.
Best Cooking Method
The cheek responds well to slow-cooking methods in braises or stews and holds its shape well when cooked whole.
4 Beef Cheeks, trimmed of excess fat
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 med carrot, finely chopped
½ celery stalk, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
500ml red wine
100gm tomato paste
1 can whole roma tomatoes, including juice
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 170 C
Heat half the oil in an ovenproof heavy based pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
Pat beef cheeks dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown cheeks on all sides, remove and set aside. Discard excess fat.
In the same pot add remaining oil and cook onion, carrot, and celery over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft.
Stir tomato paste into vegetable mixture, then add red wine to deglazing pot by loosening up any brown bits.
Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half.
Return cheeks (with any juices) to pot and add the can of tomatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, then braise, covered, in middle of oven until very tender, approx 2-3 hours.
1 cup instant polenta
6 cups chicken stock
150gm grated parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Bring 3 cups of stock to a boil.
Gradually pour in the polenta, whisking continuously
The liquid will absorb very quickly. Add another cup of stock, then reduce heat to a low simmer
Cook for about three minutes, continuing to add another 1 to 2 cups of liquid as needed, to create a smooth consistency.
Add the grated Parmesan cheese and whisk thoroughly. Season to taste.
When ready remove and serve immediately.
Spoon polenta in the middle of your plate creating a slight well in the middle. Place cheek on top and generously spoon over the braising liquor.
Garnish with chopped parsley and grated lemon zest.