I’ve always known beef cheek as one of the most frequently used cut of meat in a pot-roast or slow-cooker but I had never tried it before. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was eating out with my partner in an Italian restaurant and beef cheek ragu pasta was on their menu. Just as the legend said, the meat was indeed very tender and flavourful given that it was braised for long hours. One fork was all I needed to cut through the soft layers of the meat.
Ever since that experience I started to keep an eye out for beef cheek whenever I go to my local market but they’re hardly shown on display. So I began to ask the butcher directly whether they have beef cheek hidden inside and some of them actually have them available on request.
During mid-autumn to winter time they begin to show beef cheek along with short ribs and other types of meat that goes well in a slow cooker since they become the most popular items in the season.
To make this delicious braised beef cheek, the key ingredients that you need are red wine, veal or beef stock, onion, garlic, thyme and a bit of patience – after all this is the meat suitable for slow-cooking. Beef cheeks are full of connective tissues rich in collagen. These connective tissues are tough when they are raw but when simmered or cooked slowly in low heat, the connective tissues just melt into soft gelatin and turn the meat soft and juicy.
Don’t believe me? Seriouseats’ article backs this theory too.
Or will below pictures of my fork cutting through the soft beef cheek be able to convince you?
I like to pair these beef cheeks with mash potatoes or polenta. In this recipe I’m just making things a bit more interesting with parsnip. It’s perfect for puree and has sweeter taste. Not a lot of people have played with parsnips before but it’s not tricky to make so there’s nothing to worry about here, aside from the fact that the price for 1 kilogram of parsnip in Melbourne is much higher than the price of its root vegetable cousins. That’s why I’m making parsnips in two ways just to maximise its potential: puree and chips!
It’s recommended to make this dish one day ahead before serving, or the very first morning before you are expecting to have it ready for dinner. Aside from the fact that they need hours to cook slowly in the oven, and I also find that the flavour develops even better when the beef cheeks are covered in the sauce for longer.
Optional: I also added some bacon and parsley crumbs which went very well with the dish. If you want to make it too please feel free to check it out in this recipe here.
The recipe of beef cheek is adapted from George Colombaris’ recipe.
- 1.7 kg beef cheeks, cut into large chunks
- 1 large onion, chopped roughly
- Plain flour, for dusting
- 60ml olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 700ml red wine
- 3L veal stock
- 3 parsnips, peeled and chopped into large chunks
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 250 ml chicken stock
- 200 ml water
- 100 ml milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 parsnip, peel off thin strips of parsnips
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Bacon and parsley crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 140C. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof casserole pan over medium-high heat. Dust beef cheeks in flour, shaking off excess. Sear beef cheeks in batches for 2-3 minutes each side. Remove beef cheeks from the pan and keep warm.
- Lower the heat to medium. Add onion and garlic into the same pan and saute for 2 minutes or until translucent. Turn the heat up to high and add red wine into the pan, wait until it has reduced to about ¾. Add veal stock, thyme and the seared beef cheeks back, ensuring that all the cheeks are covered in liquid. Otherwise add more veal stock or a bit of water. Cover with a lid and put in the oven to cook for 2.5 hours.
- Remove beef cheeks from casserole pan and keep aside. Place casserole back to the stove and cook over medium-high heat until the stock has thicken and reduced to ⅓. Place beef cheeks back into the pan and keep warm.
- Heat ½ tbsp of butter on a saucepan and saute garlic for 1 min over medium heat. Add chicken stock and water into the pan and bring to the boil.
- Add parsnips and cover the saucepan with a lid to cook for 15-20 minutes or until the parsnips are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the liquid from the saucepan and mash/puree the parsnips until soft.
- Heat butter in a clean saucepan over medium heat and place parsnips back. Add milk and mix to combine. Season to taste.
- Bring vegetable oil to 170C and fry the parsnip strips in batches for 1 min. Take them out when the colours turned golden. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place 2 pieces of beef cheek and parsnip puree on to each plate and top with extra sauce and parsnip chips. Optional: also add bacon and parsley crumbs for garnish.