So here’s another cut of meat that is apparently mostly ignored by Australians. When I asked for it at a butcher’s shop, I got the impression that he had never sold cheeks before (at least not as cheeks, maybe in sausages). But he had some in the fridge, minus the skin, so I took a couple. When I got them home and started to cook them, the first thing I noticed was how fatty they are, so I trimmed off the outer layer of fat.
I then treated the pork cheeks as I would beef cheeks, into the slow cooker with some carrot and onion (I have simple tastes) and cooked on high until tender. With the pork cheeks this took about 4 hours. The end result was great for one of the cheeks, so tender I cut it in half with a plastic serving spoon. The second cheek was a bit stringy, but both had the great taste of pork that I love so much. The gelatinous parts of the cheek, which I love so much with beef cheeks, are fattier tasting and not so nice with pork. But pork cheeks are still a great cut, and confirm my belief that maybe pigs are the perfect animal ( for eating). I would love to get pork cheeks with the skin still on and roast them, I think they would be spectacular.
On my recent trip to an Asian butcher in Brisbane I bought several items I had not eaten before. Beef tendons were one of these, and as I have never seen them for sale before, I had no idea what to do with them. A bit of research told me they are good in Asian style soups and stews, where they absorb the flavours of what they are cooked with. In my usual style I decided to cook them in a way where I would be able to taste the tendons themselves, without adding too many other flavours.
As you can see, beef tendons aren’t much to look at uncooked. I decided to give them a couple of hours on high in the slow cooker with just a carrot, some celery, onion and seasoning. So after two hours a knife wouldn’t go into the tendons very easily. After four hours they weren’t much better, so I had something else for my dinner. After six hours I gave up and put the tendons in the fridge for the night. The next night I put the lot into a pot and boiled it for about an hour, after which the tendons appeared to be quite soft (but still not much to look at).
The tendons at this stage had a unique flavour, I’m not sure what the mild flavour reminded me of, but it wasn’t particularly nice, but not unpleasant either. They were extremely tender, in fact soft gelatinous lumps. Some people would probably not like that, but I do. It’s what attracts me to meat like beef cheeks. Overall, the texture and flavour were a bit overpowering as the main ingredient in the dish, but in a soup or stew, combined with other meat, they would be a great addition.
Here is another cut of meat that I had never heard of until recently. Like Osso Bucco, which is also new to me, beef cheeks are now a regular on my menu. When I first heard of them (on Masterchef) I asked at several butchers and I couldn’t get them. Apparently they are mostly exported from Australia. I finally found them at a local Woolworths supermarket.
With most of my cooking I tend to go for a simple approach, and don’t use a lot of herbs, spices or anything else that masks the flavour of the main ingredient. There are many fancy recipes available on the internet for beef cheeks, but I simply slow cook them in a casserole with a few veges like carrots, celery, onion and a clove or two of garlic, then serve them with mashed potato. The cheeks I buy are trimmed and skinned, but still have a lot of the connective tissue on them. I don’t remove any of it! After a couple of hours cooking at a low heat, the cheeks are wonderfully tender, with a smooth, sticky almost jelly like texture from the collagen in them. I guess some people might find the gooeyness of them unpleasant, but I love it. And for flavour, to me they are the best of beef for casserole or braising (or at least equal to Osso Bucco).
I would really recommend if you haven’t eaten them to hunt some down and try them.