Gradually, gradually I hope I’m getting you all used to cooking with secondary cuts of meat…yes? The secondary cuts are the ones that can often be discarded because they’re not as fashionable. Which is a waste. The dumb thing is, these secondary cuts – chuck, shanks, cheeks, offal, shin, blade, brisket – taste infinity better than the primary cuts if they’re simply cooked a little differently.
Dumber still, these different cooking methods (slow and long) make the meat much better for you (the slow temperatures don’t destroy as many of the enzymes).Make a difference and vote with your dollar: buy secondary and learn to cook differently!
I’ve been playing with a few different cuts…gradually moving us all via this series of slow-cooked meals (you can check out my lamb shanks with lemon and cinnamon here and my beef with coconut curry here) to cooking with offal. We’re not there yet. But stay tuned.
Today, it’s beef cheeks. These are the facial cheeks of cows (not the bum cheeks!) and are very lean and tough if not cooked nice and slow and languidly.
Some quick pointers before we start…
* You can use a heavy-based casserole pot instead.
No need to buy a special electric slow cooker if you don’t want. You can use a Le Creuset casserole pot or dutch oven on the stove top or in the oven instead. You generally have to add liquid if you do (see below) and reduce cooking time from 8 hours (on low) or 4 hours (on high) to 1-2 hours.
* It doesn’t have to be a big one.
I use a 4.5L one. It’s big enough to make 6-8 portions.
* Halve the liquid if you’re using a slow cooker
If you’re converting a recipe from a standard (oven or stove-top) recipe, halve the amount of juicy stuff and do things like replace some of the chopped tomatoes with tomato paste.
Slow Cooked Cinnamon Beef Cheeks with Cauliflower Cream
- 800g-ish beef cheeks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 200g Portobello mushrooms
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon each fresh thyme leaves and rosemary leaves, chopped roughly
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder or 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup dry sherry, such as Pedro Ximenez (or red wine; I did a combo of both)
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot or corn starch (optional)
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
Turn on your slow cooker. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat and brown the meat for 2 minutes each side. Remove from pan and place into slow cooker. Place the rest of the ingredients (except the arrowroot/corn starch) on top in the order listed, stir the vegetables lightly and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low 8 hours. If you like a thicker sauce, add the arrowroot/cornstarch in the final 20 minutes.
Half an hour before serving, put the cauliflower, cream and butter in a saucepan, season to taste with salt, then cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes. Blend with a stab mixer (or use a potato masher) until smooth. Serve beef and cream with steamed beans or zucchini.
Some extra bits to know:
If you can’t find beef cheeks at your butcher, use beef shin, chuck, brisket or blade steak instead.
To find out how to buy beef cheeks from farmers whose sustainability practices you like, go to the Target100 site.
If you wind up with waaaaaay too much liquid (this often happens with slow cookers), simply remove some of the liquid and store in a jar in the freezer. Pull it out when you need some rich sauce for a dish.
Any beef cheek recipes you love? Any other cooking styles or cuts you’d like me to check out?