Tuesday, June 5, 2012


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.


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)

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.


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.


Like the Millennium Falcon, she doesn't look like much but boy can she fly!


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: