IMPORTANT: If you don't have pork cheeks, don't worry - you can use pork neck, pork shank or pork shoulder.
Ok, now that we have that settled let's get on with it.
These dishes are super easy to do, very little prep and the oven does the rest.
My local supermarket had pork cheeks on offer, and so I bought three packages. Once I start doing slow cooking, I always make huge portions since they can easily be turned into other servings the following days.
The first recipe is how to braise them in a pretty classic way and the second recipe is a comfort food italian ragu-style sauce for pasta or chickpeas.
And now you're thinking, "Braising is difficult and time consuming" - No and Yes!
Braising is not difficult, and it doesn't take a lot of prep work, once everything is in the roasting pan, time and heat will work for you - so technically it's not time consuming in an active way.
One of the best things about large portions of braised meat: LEFTOVERS!
I love to use leftovers, it's your past self's gift to the present you - Easy dinner in no time. The best thing about the leftover recipe is that people will be so impressed, since you technically cooked pasta sauce for 5 hours like an italian mama.
Braised pork cheeks with Mash
Serves: 4-6 people
Prep time: 20 min
Cooking time: 4-5 hours
When you braise meats, make more than you eat to freeze or turn into Amazing 2nd day servings. Recipe calls for 10-12 cheeks, but really make as many as you can get your hands on and just adjust the recipe according to the amount of cheeks.
Ask your butcher to trim the cheeks for you, so you don't have to do it.
If you are using another part of the pig, adjust the cooking time.
Anything on a bone: 5-7 hours
Pork neck in chunks: same as the cheeks, maybe a little less - check them regularly.
10-12 pork cheeks
3 large carrots
1 root celeriac
4 stalks of sellery
1 head of garlic
1 tbsp of mustard seeds
half a bottle of red wine (scraps or a cheap one you have hanging around)
140 g tomato concentrate (about 3 topped tbsp )
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
700 ml - 1 l. bouillon ( I used water and a bouilloncube)
A tea bag with the following
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 star anis
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp black pepper corn
Sides and topping:
1,5 kg potatoes
salt, pepper grated nutmeg
Turn on the oven to 130*c/265*F
If your butcher has not trimmed the cheeks, then cut away any tiny bits of bone and big lumps of fat and tissue.
Peel all the vegetables and cut them in large chunks, half the onions and the garlic (just cut it across all the bulbs.
Heat up a pan with 1 tbsp of oil and brown the cheeks on both sides. Transfer them into a large oven proof roasting dish.
Add honey to the pan, let i bubble for a minute, then add the wine and reduce it down to half.
Use a wooden spoon to get all the flavor from the roasting of the pan into the wine - we want all that amazing flavor in there.
Transfer into a large oven proof roasting dish that can hold all the meat and veggies AND all the liquid.
Continue roasting the veggies at medium-high heat, then transfer them to the roasting dish.
Add the tea bag with spices and pour over the bouillon. Season with salt.
Cover the roasting pan with foil or a lid and cook for 3 hours, then open the lid a bit and leave a tiny crack open for the steam to escape, cook 1-2 hours more until the cheeks are completely tender.
Flip the cheeks and veggies over occasional during cooking.
Whilst the cheeks are cooking peel the potatoes and put them in cold water without salt.
When the cheeks are super tender, strain the sauce and reduce it down about 1/3, then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pour the sauce back over the cheeks. Remove the spice bag.
Boil the potatoes until they are super soft. Strain them and keep some of the boiling water to adjust the thickness of the mash.
Mash them with a bit of water, salt and pepper - and grated nutmeg. You can adjust the texture with more water. Then add a good splash of olive oil, then season again to taste.
Serve the mash, topped with braised cheeks and veggies and top with chopped mint.
If you have leftovers - there's a dinner recipe for the scraps here.
Pork cheeks ragu sauce with pasta or chickpeas.
Leftover braised cheeks and veggies
2 cans of tomatoes
pasta or cooked chickpeas
Fresh herbs of your choice for garnish ( I used tarragon)
Mix the leftover cheeks with the canned tomatoes in a casserole, heat it up and blend it a couple of times with a stick blender. It should be a chucky sauce texture. Season with salt, pepper and possibly a small splash of balsamic vinegar.
If you are using chickpeas, heat them up gently in the sauce.
If you are having pasta, boil it al dente.
Serve the hot ragu with either chickpeas (like me) or pasta (like my boyfriend) topped with parmesan cheese.
And that's it ladies and gentlemen, the two in one recipe that will impress most people, and if it doesn't - they are weird.
Thank you for reading and cooking.
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Take care, lot's of love