Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pigs cheeks braised in cider

Pigs cheeks are one of the most underated cuts of pork.  They are mouthwateringly tender when slow cooked and whatsmore they are one of the most, if not the most, ecenomical cut of pork you can get.  Ask your butcher for the cheeks, if your feeling adventerous, get the whole head and butcher it yourself.  The head can then be made into a fantastic gelatenous stock for filling pork pies, making a terrine or simply as the base for a soup. 

When you get the cheeks, theres quite a bit to butcher off, look at the pic below and you can see theres only a small pocket of meat you can eat. 

Here the pigs cheeks are served with creamy mashed potatoes.  The crisp bacon really adds a fantastic smoky tecture to the dish and the earthy carrots compliment everything on the plate.  Enjoy.

IngredientsServes 2/4
4 Pigs cheeks (I usually do 1 per person but the are quite small so you might want to do 2 per person)
Flour, for dusting
Olive oil for frying
1 onion peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 leek, chunkily cut
1 large carrot peeled and chunkily cut
1 stick of celrey chunkily cut
1 clove of garlic peeled
bay leaf
fresh thyme and rosemary (a sprig of each if you have any, if not dont worry)
250mls of dry cider
150mls chicken stock (or just enough to cover the cheeks)
salt and pepper
2 slices of streaky bacon per person
a bunch of baby carrots, as many of as few as you fancy
a good knob of butter

1 portion of mashed potatoes per person

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2 .
Season the pigs' cheeks and dust with a little flour. Heat some olive oil in a large ovenproof pan and fry the cheeks until golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onions, leek, celery, carrots herbs and garlic and fry over a low heat until lightly browned.
Add the cider.
Reduce by half its volume on a high heat.
Return the cheeks to the pan and pour over just enough chicken stock to cover.
Add the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2-4 hours. (after 2 horus they will be perfectly done but the longer you leave them in the more tender they will become)
Stir every hour or so, adding a little more chicken stock if it starts looking dry.
Remove the cheeks and pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Bring to the boil and reduce on a high heat to your desired jus consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
In the meantime make up the mash as per the recipe.
For the carrots: Add the carrots to the pan with the butter and water. Steam the carrots until tender then take the lid off the pan turn the heat up high.  The carrots will begin to caramelise and become “glazed” in the buttery juices.  Make sure the pan doesn’t burn as there will be  very little liquid present.  When the carrots look glazed turn the heat off and keep warm until needed.
For the pancetta:  Heat a frying pan with a little oil.  Add the pancetta and fry until crisp on both sides.

To serve, put a spoonful of the mash on the plate. Cut a cheek at an angle and arrange on top. Pile on some carrot batons on the side of the plate and balance a crisp slice of pancetta on top of the pork.
Pour the cider jus around the dish.
Eat in abundance when its cold outside.

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