This post will be in two parts sharing my recent experience cooking pork cheeks and jowls aka face bacon. Like everything in life it is very easy to stick with what we are comfortable with. It is the unknown that is daunting and often avoided. Cooking is no exception, most people stick with the dishes or cuts of meat they know and I’m guilty of this as well. But I do try to push myself, this blog has been great for that, it has made me more aware of what I’m cooking (or planning to cook) and has encouraged me to be more innovative… It’s just been a few months but I’ve really enjoyed this outlet for writing and sharing my creations 🙂
In an ode to how cool they are my butcher’s wife will tweet when they have new or special cuts of meat in store. Often what ever is up for offer is snatched up quickly and I’ve missed out a few times. Last week I serendipitously was on twitter killing time when the meat tweet went out.. Pork cheeks and jowls in store.. I blindly jumped on it! Yes please I had no idea what I was going to make or what many I needed but I wanted both. I left it in their capable hands to determine what I needed. I ended up with 6 pork cheeks and 2 jowls. What I have since learned is they shrink A LOT! I’d say by at least half if not more. Be mindful of that if you find yourself buying these delectable pieces of meat. For a nice change when at the meat counter you will shocked at how cheap these cuts are. I can see why perhaps face bacon may turn some people off, but we’re eating other parts of the animal so why not use all of it? As consumers we are wasteful enough – however that is a rant for another day…
After some serious interest research I decided on this recipe for braised cheeks and parsnip puree. The pork cheeks are braised for 4 hours and let me say it should be illegal how good your house will smell… My one mistake in my weekend meat party plans was not taking into consideration the weather. As you may have noted from my previous posts while I don’t live in the arctic tundra I live in the next best thing. This past weekend mother nature rewarded us after 6 full long months of winter with temperatures in the high 20s. Temperatures we had not experienced since last August, needless to say it wasn’t the best day to have the oven on for hours (say tuned for part 2 when the jowls cook for 7 hours and I steamed buns). Luckily the Kentucky Derby was on aka excuse for refreshing afternoon cocktails 🙂 I followed the recipe more or less exactly, so I won’t repeat, but I will share a few tips..
- For the puree I used an 70/30 mix of parsnips and potatoes. By adding potatoes to the puree I find it gives it more substance, and it’s preferred by my dinner partner!
- I didn’t have caraway seeds so I used a mix of cumin seeds and fennel seeds
- Be warned it is a mess straining the sauce… This was hard because it looks so good coming out you could really serve as a wonderful rich stew perfect for the winter.
This meal is really perfect for entertaining. Most of the prep is early, pork cheeks are cheap, it looks really really impressive on a plate.. and most importantly it is soooo yummy!!!!
- PIG CHEEKS
- 4 pigs' cheeks, trimmed of fat
- flour, for dusting
- olive oil, for frying
- 2 onions, peeled and cut into chunks
- ½ leek, outside leaves removed, washed and cut into cubes
- 1 large carrot, peeled, cut into cubes
- 1 sticks celery, cut into cubes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp beef stock, or enough to cover
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- PARSNIP PUREE
- 5 parsnips, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 200 ml 2% milk
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 large carrots, cut into ¼cm x 12cm sticks
- 1 tbsp butter
- 4 slices pancetta, fried until crisp
- For the pigs' cheeks: season the pigs' cheeks and dust with a little flour. Heat some olive oil in a large ovenproof pan and fry the cheeks until golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onions, leek, celery, carrots and garlic and fry gently until lightly browned. Add the tomato purée and a little of the red wine. Reduce until the tomato purée starts to caramelise and darken. Carry on adding the wine in stages, reducing between each addition until the sauce is rich and dark.
- Preheat oven to 250F
- Return the cheeks to the pan and add pour over just enough brown stock to cover. Add the peppercorns, cumin and fennel seeds and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
- Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 4 hours. Stir every hour or so, adding a little more brown stock if it starts looking dry.
- Remove the cheeks and pass the sauce through cheese cloth into a clean pan. Bring to the boil and reduce to a good consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- For the parsnip puree: put the parsnips and potatoes in a pan with the milk and the same quantity of water. Bring to the boil and cook until very tender.
- Put the parsnips and potatoes in a blender with a little of the cooking liquid and the butter. Blend for about 10 minutes, until very smooth. Season.
- For the carrots: boil the carrots in salted water until just tender. Drain and refresh in iced water. Warm through with a knob of butter before serving.
- To serve, put a spoonful of parsnip purée on the plate. Cut a cheek at an angle and arrange on top. Pile on some carrot batons and balance a crisp slice of pancetta on top.
Part two of the meat party is coming soon.. Completely different meal of Crispy Pork Jowl in Steam Buns.
Enjoy and hopefully you are inspired to try something new 🙂