The last time I slow cooked some portion of beef (shins I recall) for dinner guests, they rang about five minutes before their expected arrival to meekly offer apologies for not being able to come. Personal issues. I remained calm (in spite of literally spending all day in the kitchen) but hubby was livid. Personal issues! They should have just pretended to like each other for three hours and eat the damned meal as far as he was concerned.
I remembered that particular no-show as I started preparing a pot of beef cheeks for a different set of dinner guests. I started the night before after coming home from an evening out; lovingly searing the cheeks before nestling them amongst vegetables in a warm bath of stock and red wine. While we slept, my trusty slow cooker turned the beef cheeks into food worthy of tears. I let the cheeks rest in the fridge once cooled while I worked on a creamy celeriac puree and zesty braised red cabbage. Then the phone call. Illness. I remained calm. I had four serves of beef cheek and gorgeous accompaniments. How could I get mad? :)
So my hubby and I sat down to a rather splendid winter feast. It was my first go at cooking beef cheeks but I was suitably pleased with my effort. I was aiming for the richer than rich sauce served at Harvest and while not quite there, I think I know where I need to tinker for the next time I tackle cheeks. Celeriac is pretty much a no-brainer accompaniment for beef cheek and little wonder. It helped cut down the richness of both the almost gelatinous meat and its sauce. My sweet and sour cabbage also played the perfect third wheel, giving a nice zing to what is otherwise a pretty hard going meal.
I’ll probably come back to this dish again over winter and post my final recipe then. For now, the ingredients used in the sauce: carrots, onion, garlic, celery, red wine, veal stock, tomato paste, pinch of five spice, salt & pepper, and tablespoon of cocoa. I’ll include recipes for the celeriac puree and braised cabbage then too :)
Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks (also good for Osso Bucco)
4 beef cheeks
one clove of garlic
one stalk of celery
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 400g tin of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp Pedro Ximenez sherry
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper for seasoning
To make: Dice up onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Flour and season pieces of beef cheeks or osso bucco and heat up pan with olive oil. Seal the pieces of meat and transfer to slow cooker pot or other pot if slow cooking in oven. Add a little more oil and sautee the diced vegetables until heated through. Add red wine and stock (beef, veal or vegetable). Empty content of fry pan into slow cooker pot and turn slow cooker on to ‘Low’. Add crushed tomato, tomato paste, cocoa and Pedro Ximenez fortified sherry. Season further with a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Allow to slow cook for at least six hours and adjust flavour accordingly at this point. Give it another hour before serving.