Monday 19 April 2010

Pork Cheeks

Right now, cheeks are currently the things to cook. (Facial – not arse, I should point out.) Ox and Pork are the usual meaty suspects. It’s a really neglected cut, pretty much unknown to most consumers and therefore seriously cheap to buy. With the added benefit, that it’s packed full of flavour, just needing a slow cook on a low heat to get the most out of it.

Wasting no time in jumping on the cheek bandwagon, a good few weeks back, in a veritable cheek frenzy I purchased a pack of Pork cheeks from my local butcher. He had to disappear out back to get them, (Proving that it’s always worth asking for the cut you want it you don’t spy it at the counter). They were frozen, and I was amazed at how weighty a pack of meat I got for around £3. Bargain or, so I thought.

The Pork cheeks sat neglected in my freezer for some time. The whole de-frosting then long cooking time always put me off making the effort…. Until on a day, seemingly just like any other, inexplicably, I awoke wanting…. No, ‘needing’ cheeks. Out of the freezer they came and I made my preparations.

How to cook them? I own hundreds of recipe books, shelves of the buggers…but can I find a single recipe featuring Pork Cheeks? No.
So… casting my mind back I remembered that
Graphic Foodie had written a very nice recipe on her blog featuring the aforementioned cheeks. This would be my guide.

Assembling the ingredients, I turned my attention to the now defrosted meat – and this is when I realised something was different about my cheeks. Every other food blogger was talking about buying packs of a few cheeks, six or so from (mainly) Waitrose, and the finished articles looked almost like beef medallions. I now realised that I had purchased only two meaty medallions…. And they were essentially un-butchered; still with whole slabs of the Pigs cheek skin attached, complete with bristly hairs. Also, the half inch thick, pink skin looked scarily human, which was a tad off-putting.
Grimacing, but now determined to get my cheeks – I sharpened my best Global knife, and went to work, cutting away in a fairly amateurish and carefree fashion I soon had two nice, neat looking lumps of meat sitting on the worktop – sans fat, skin and hair.

I followed Graphic Foodies recipe to the letter, except that rather than oven bake the accompanying apple, I pan fried apple rings in butter to caramelise them, and served with crushed new potatoes with wild garlic and mustard.

Here’s the Recipe: -

Pork cheeks in Cider. Caramelised Apple, & crushed Wild Garlic and Mustard New Potatoes

Serves 2

You’ll need:-

For the Pork Cheeks:-

2-3 Large Pork Cheeks, trimmed of fat
1 small onion, finely sliced
1tbs olive oil
Knob of butter
400ml dry cider (I used
3 Sage leaves

For the Crushed Wild Garlic and Mustard New Potatoes.

500g New Potatoes
Hand full of Wild Garlic – chopped
Tablespoon of wholegrain or Dijon mustard
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Apple cored, and sliced into two rings.

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Sautée the sliced small onion in olive oil and butter until softened. Add the pigs' cheeks and brown. Add the cider, season and bring to the boil.

Transfer into an ovenproof dish and place in the preheated oven for 70 minutes, turning and basting with the cider regularly. Add 3 sage leaves and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

At this point, whilst the cheeks are finishing off, cook the new potatoes in salted boiling water, also for 20mins.

Remove the pig cheeks from the oven to rest for 10 minutes

Drain and crush the new potatoes – stirring through the Olive Oil, the chopped Wild Garlic and the Mustard. Taste and season.

Meanwhile, over a high heat reduce the cider sauce.

Pan fry the apple rings with a knob of butter until golden.

Seriously, bloody delicious. The cheeks were superbly rich, meaty and so tender. I arranged the dish in a rather pretentious looking tower, with the apple ring and cheeks on top – it actually looked (I think) superb, and tasted incredible. I’m rarely truly happy about what I cook, but this time I was really pleased, in fact – I’d have been happy to be served up the same dish in a restaurant.

Flushed with my Pork cheek success, I am now the proud owner of some Ox cheeks, and will be cooking them up very soon.
Watch this space.

Thanks again to
Graphic Foodie for allowing me to use, (and slightly bastardise), her excellent recipe.


Anonymous said...

Looks lovely. I've neither cooked nor eaten pig cheek before, I must get round to it. Which butcher did you use Dan?

"Facial, not arse" - I imagine you will get some interesting traffic from using that phrase.

Anonymous said...

Masterchef rubbing off on you a little bit eh Dan? Very fancy...but sounds delicious. Made ox cheek ragu with homemade tagliatelle last week if you want any tippage...

Dangerous Variable said...


I usually slow cook in dark caramelised soy sauce with sesame oil and rice wine. Over a slow fire for 1.5 hours.

PDH said...

Good ol' cheek, been a fan for quite some time now. The ox cheeks will be fantastic I'll look forward to seeing what you do with them. Sadly for this one I'll be giving it a miss, cannot stand pork and apples just one of those taste combo's that doesn't work for me... Looks great though!

Dan said...

RoastPotato - hahaha never thought of that.
I used David Harrison in Chalkwell for the cheeks, and although they were big'uns (there I go again) - they're sold by weight, and in this case, compared to Waitrose, where the cheeks are sold already fully butchered. I got stiffed.

James - hahaha yes, just a bit, I couldn't help myself. Ox cheek Ragu sounds bloody delicious, I'll bear that in mind when I get around to cooking them.

Dan said...

Dangerous Variable - Thanks. That sounds delicious.

Paul - Thanks very much, Pork and apple doesn't work for you? Classic combo, that's interesting, but I know what you mean - each to their own. Out of interest, how would you cook em? any preferences?

PDH said...

I'd do them in a very rich and sticky red wine and tomato sauce served with crisp potato rosti. But probably bulk it out with some shallots as well.

Dan said...

Paul - That sounds bloody superb.

Food Urchin said...

Super looking dish there me ol' china, though I suppose the credit should really go to Graphic Foodie! ; )

Graphic Foodie said...

Looks fab Dan, much better presentation than my effort! Next time I make this I'm going to team it with crushed potatoes... lovely.

Mister North said...

Sounds wonderful, perfect pairing of pomme and pork

I've been meaning to follow up some of Jane Grigson's charcuterie suggestions including pork cheeks for a while: this will give me the kick up the arse I need. Now to talk to my wonderful local butcher…

As a 'cheeky' aside if you ever get the chance to experience cod cheeks you really must… truly wonderful!

Hollow Legs said...

Wowzers - that looks a bit good. Lovely presentation - I need to get my hands on some cheeks (ahem...)

Jonathan said...

Top stuff. It's all about the cheeks. Don't overlook them in Wellington format. Or the virtues of cooking them with bourbon, honey and mustard.

The Ample Cook said...

Well done, Dan your dish looks so professional. Looks a geat recipe (well done Fran)

I think Harrison's is a bit over the top with their prices. Give the farm shop at Canewdon a call. They rear their own pigs now.

Dan said...

Food Urchin - Thanks very much, and yes indeed - all credit to Fran for her superb recipe.

Fran - Thanks, and thanks again for the recipe (and letting me bastardise it here - nice one) :)

Mr North - Cod Cheeks, I've seen them on the menu a few times, never tried them - certainly haven't tried cooking them. I'll have to investigate that, thanks v.much.

Lizzie - hahaha thanks, and yes - getting your hands on some cheeks ASAP would be a good course of action.

Jonathan - Aha, bloody hell - I forgot, you'd cooked many a cheek on the paunch, I should have also looked there for inspiration. Thanks for the reminder.

Jan - Thanks. Yeah Harrisons stiffed me on the cheeks (ooer) basically, sold by weight - I'd have been better of getting them from Waitrose (if they actually had any).

Anonymous said...

That looks yummilicioius. I might have to join you on that cheeky bandwagon. If I ever get back to the UK that is. Becci (languishing in Granada).

Essex menu said...

My little butcher is great , he may take a couple of days to get you what you want be he normally comes up trumps.

I like my pork cheeks, almost confit, I use orange and sage and duck fat. When confit i then shred, shape and breadcrumb. Small obviously and serve with a pork sunday roast as an accompaniement.

Melanie Heavenly said...

What consistency did the slow cooked meat have. Was it all slimy, gelatinous or gloopy? I love all slow cooked meat but my partner has real texture issues with meat. I don't want to go to loads of effort only to have the food pushed around the plate. Ta!

Dan said...

Feedetgastro - I feel for you being stuck in Grenada hahaha. Are you sure you want to come back?

Essex Menu - That sounds superb, really delicious.

Melanie Heavenly - It was very tender, but still firm....not slimy, gelatinous or gloopy at all. Well worth the effort, and very tasty.

Anonymous said...

Any recipes for arse though?

Dan said...

Sasaunakku - Ha, no recipes for arse yet, but when I'll be the first to know!

Jo said...

Hi Dan,
Thanks so much for your very amusing account and lovely looking recipe. I too have just bought pigs cheek from the butchers and also have half a human face to work out what to do with, (should have googled it first and then gone to Waitrose).
I am going to follow your recipe and am off to sharpen a knife for dissection of skin.
Many thanks for making me laugh and feel less ripped off by my butcher :-)