Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheeky!

Beef cheek stew.
The previous Sunday, Carnival the day before Memorial Day, I made my way through the city.

The day was remarkable. The skies were clear, the air was warm. In San Francisco in late May, this is hardly a guarantee.

Revelers were out, adorned like peacocks. The bus was unbearably slow...I decided to walk around among the celebrators.

I had a mission, however: I needed some things from the hardware store before Memorial Day to clean up the apartment, but I also wanted to get out to San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood and grab some odds and ends at Olivier's Butchery.

I had been having bit of a rough month, life was just kind of bumming me out...Amidst the revelry, sunlight, celebration and joy in my fair (adopted) city, I was feeling disconnected.

I sought comfort.

Comfort food.

Beef cheek: $8.29/lb at Olivier's Butchery
To me, comfort food is braising meat: those tough, sinewy meats that dissolve into thick, lovely, unctuous stews after hours of cooking.

Normally, these are the cheapest cuts of meat beside organ meat: chuck, rump roast, pork shoulder, tongue, leg of lamb, trotters, fatback, cheeks.

But something has transformed the American palette over the last few decades, and as a result formerly humble cuts of meat such as the sweetbread, trotter, pork belly, hanger steak and the beef (or pig) cheek have seen a steady rise in price.

In San Francisco, you can pay as much as $11/lb ("grass fed", "organic"). I picked some up for $3.99/lb at the West Side Market in Cleveland.

The fridge was full of left-overs from Memorial Day: beer, coleslaw, random sauces, more beer, salsa.

As for whole, fresh vegetables, pickings were slim.

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Sautéed vegetables.
I grabbed some red cabbage, left-over wine, tomato paste, "baby" carrots, onions and garlic and set out to braise my cheeks.

Braised Beef Cheek Stew:
  • 2 cups of roughly chopped red cabbage
  • 1 medium shallot, large dice
  • 1 cup of "baby" carrots, halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1/3-1/2 bottle of drinkable red wine
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dark molasses
  • 2 dashes of Worchestershire sauce
  • water to cover
  • Salt and pepper
  • Duck fat or bacon grease (about 3 tbsp)
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Pre-heat oven to 250ºF.

Heat a medium saucier (we're using the All-Clad 3-qt Stainless Steel Saucier) over high heat and let the pan get nice and hot.

Pat any moisture off your beef cheeks and season with a little salt. Sear with about a tablespoon of duck fat for 5 minutes on each side.

Remove meat from the pan and reserve in a mixing bowl.

Toss the shallots, carrots and cabbage around for about 3 minutes. De-glaze with a splash of wine and reserve along with the cheek.

Lower heat to medium and rust the tomato paste with the remaining duck fat until the tomato paste darkens, about 5-8 minutes.

Stop browning by adding the remaining wine.

Add the reserved and remaining ingredients, stir and cover meat with vegetables and extra water and bring to a boil.

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Cover and place on a sheet pan then into the oven. Braise for 4-5 hours at 250ºF.

Stew is ready to serve when cheek can be fork shredded.

I served mine with noodles tossed in butter and grated hard cheese with fresh shredded cabbage.

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Like the Millennium Falcon, she doesn't look like much but boy can she fly!
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Spending this week traveling, seeing family and hanging out where I grew up. Sorry for the trickle of content. Sometimes life gets in the way of the blog!

This song, some stew and a nice beer makes it all better.

Neko Case feels my pain: