I recently got some ox cheeks from our local deli. This is a cut I had no experience with, either cooking or eating. It is very lean, with a small layer of fat on the surface and no marbling that I could see. Each cheek was around 1.5 pounds, and the minimum order was 4 cheeks. Upon investigating, all recipes (not surprisingly) call for either braising or slow-cooking the cheeks.
I had picked up a cookbook at the Words Worth Books 30th anniversary which had a recipe for braised ox cheeks in it, so I cooked that when Gwen’s co-worker Hellen came over. This was a fairly straightforward recipe. The cheeks were braised for a few hours with wine, beef stock and mirepoix. I served it with beef jus, roasted baby potatoes and some veg. This recipe was a qualified success. The beef jus was a significant amount of work and contributed little to the dish. The ox cheeks were so flavourful they completely overpowered the wine I braised them in (but the flavour was delicious so I won’t worry about this). As always, the roasted potatoes were a hit and the apple crisp went off smoothly. The meal was well lubricated and everyone enjoyed it, so it was a successful evening overall.
The other half of the cheeks went into a stew. This is a recipe I grew up with so I knew what to expect. It is a fairly typical stew recipe. The beef is browned, then simmered in stock with vegetables and an apple. The apple adds a nice sweetness, but is totally dissolved by the time the stew is cooked. I think adding a second apple later would give a more pronounced apple flavour. Raisins are added near the end, and provide nice bursts of sweetness which would be nicely complemented by the apple. This recipe went off without a hitch and was nicely complemented by some cornbread. The cheeks worked wonderfully as stewing beef, but I probably should have trimmed the fat, as it didn’t dissolve as well as I would have liked.