Slow cooked meat is awesome, melt in the mouth, big rich flavours, it’s all good, apart from the time it takes to get the result, you can cheat it with a pressure cooker, well the texture kind of, but you can’t cheat the rich strong flavour that a three hour braise produces, which is a problem when it’s a Wednesday night at 6pm and you have beef cheeks you really want to eat, but like hell you’re going to wait til what will probably be a 10pm dinner time. So like the crazy food weirdo that I am, I think hey I can cook two meals tonight, I don’t need to be sociable, I’ll just set up shop in the kitchen for the night. With one dinner made, and ate, I set about getting a beef cheek braise on the go, I figure if I get it in the oven by 8pm and cook it for 3 hours at 140ºC, I should be able to get it cool enough and get it in the fridge overnight to be finished off the next day.
2 Beef cheeks
2 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, diced
2 Celery stalks, diced
1 tsp Smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp Hot paprika
1 tsp Mustard
1 tbsp of Garlic confit
1 tbsp Tomato paste
250 ml Red wine
50 ml Tawny port
2 Bay leaves
1 Bunch of thyme
Preheat the oven to 140ºC
Brown the cheeks in a little olive oil, remove and place in a casserole dish (or dutch oven, I would have used one, but the enamel on mine exploded off with some gusto a while back and I haven’t replace it yet).
Sweat the onion, carrots and celery in the pan.
Add the paprikas, mustard, tomato paste, and garlic, cook until fragrant.
Deglaze with the port, and when almost evaporated add the red wine, bay leaves and thyme, simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour the mixture over the cheeks and place on a lid, or cover tightly with a double layer of tinfoil. Cook for 3–4 hours.
When done, carefully remove the cheeks to warm bowl, and strain the liquid into the same, the vegetables have done their work, and will be pretty bland, so just discard them.
While the meat rests in its sauce, prepare the polenta. I unashamedly use instant polenta, good for you if you have the time and patience to put up with making the regular kind, and for putting up with the burns you get from popping bubbles of steamy polenta hell. Bring 500ml Chicken stock to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in 125 grams of instant polenta, keep whisking until thick, you may have to put it back on the heat for a couple of seconds, but usually it isn’t needed. Add half a tub of crème fraîche and whisk in until fully incorporated.
Spoon a pillow of polenta onto a plate, take a cheek and slice it in three, then rest it on the polenta, spoon over a generous amount of sauce, and finish with a grating of a nice nutty cheese and a sprinkling of herbs.