Sous Vide Braised Beef Cheeks, Smile for me.
The only place I’ve ever actually had beef cheeks has been at super-high end restauraunts and I was kind of surprised when I was at the local butcher shop the other day just kind of browsing looking for “what to cook” ideas and he had some beef cheeks available for around 9 bucks a pound. I had never gotten a chance to cook them before so I grabbed them up and set off on a culinary excursion to try and clap some cheeks.
If you’re wondering, beef cheek isn’t a cute word for a weird part of an animal like “Rocky Mountain Oyster” or anything like that. Lets call a spade a spade, its cow-face. Really tender and buttery its not the easiest thing to really nail, it requires a long slow cook to really render the fat in it so I opted for Sous-Viding it for 9 hours.
The way I presented it required adding some julienned pickled carrot and daikon raddish which you can see by clicking the link. Basic instructions for how to quick pickle are included.
- 1.5 pounds beef cheeks
- Three Carrots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cups Red Wine of your choice
- 2 cups White Wine of your choice
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 3 Teaspoons Thyme
- A handful of pickled carrot and daikon, don’t have an exact amount just use what you feel is best.
First things first get a quality cut of cheeks, try your best to remove as much of the silver skin as possible.
Now that you’ve got your cheek, you’re going to want to heat a pan with some oil in it. There is a thing called the Maillard reaction which occurs when meat is browned/seared. Without getting absurdly technical and bogged down in chemistry, essentially the searing/browning of meat releases enzymes that cause a reaction in the tissue causing the meat to take on a deeper and more complex flavor. Its what happens when we sear our steaks. Slow cooking after some browning is supposed to let this flavor be imparted into your meat.
The problem however is that if you sear it too long it will also dry out your meat so what people recommend is merely searing the meat on one side before slow-cooking so that the reaction begins but at the same time, you haven’t cooked your meat too much to dry it out.
Anyway, blah blah blah, science be damned, lets get to work. Sear the cheeks on one side for 1 minute, resist the urge to flip or check on them. Just let em burn.
A look at both sides of the meat, one of them doesn’t have the silverskin off yet but this is just to give you an idea.
Now then, set that meat aside and let it rest while you get your braise ready. Jullienne or just chop your carrots, thinly slice your onions, and throw it in a pan to sear.
Let it sear for around 10 minutes until it starts to brown.
Now then, you want to throw your wine, your herbs, and your thyme into the pan. You want to stir this up and let it reduce quite a bit, almost 20% of what you started with.
One of the biggest mistakes ive made while learning how to reduce wine is not letting it reduce far enough. If you get ahead of yourself and start moving on before most of the alcohol has cooked off you end up with a much rougher flavor. Just chill and let it reduce to about 20% of what it used to be, when its looking like a lot less, put it in a seal-able bag and vacuum seal it
Thats it. Put it in your water bath at 178 degrees for 9 hours and ignore it.
Once you’re ready to take it out, drain out the braising liquid through a colander type strainer into a pan and separate it from the meat/solids. Your meat is ready to go at this point, just set it aside or plate it and let it wait.
Now you want to take that liquid and let it simmer in a pan until you’re left with around 2-3 spoons of liquid. The flavor of the meat should meld with the flavor of the braise to creat a thick syrupy sauce.
Now go ahead and pour some of your sauce on your cooked cheek.
For the final touch you want to add your pickled carrot/radish that I spoke about above. Once again, you can find how to do this here.
Beef Cheeks are a very rich and gooey type of meat, the crunch and brininess of the pickled vegetables brings in a textural element that I find works very well.
I’d like to reiterate that beef cheeks are very rich, fatty, and decadent. My wife loved them at first but as the meal went on she found it hard to continue, its texture and thickness can wear on a persons palate. It may be better to serve this in smaller portions as an appetizer rather than as a main course. I imagine it as smaller cheek rounds with pickle on each, served as bites before the main dish.
Regardless, these were amazing and tasted so good. If you’ve never had a cheek, you should.