Because of their heavy use, beef cheeks are super lean and tough. While this doesn’t sound like a fun cut of meat to cook, when braised the results are remarkable: with a little liquid, heat, and time, one cheek magically transforms into a dense, succulent, and immensely satisfying meal for two.
A traditional French-style braise in broth, red wine, mirepoix veggies, and a few sprigs of fresh herbs help to bring a full flavor to the meat. But after several hours in the oven I felt like I needed to add something to liven the dish up; so I worked out a new favorite invention of mine, anchovy butter.
1 beef cheek (approx 1 lb)
1 tbsp ghee
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chopped coarsely
1 carrot, chopped coarsely
1 stalk celery, chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 small sprig each thyme and rosemary
1 cup medium-bodied red wine (Merlot)
1 1/2 cups each chicken and beef broths
1/2 batch of cauliflower purée
4 carrots, peeled
5 oz sliced white or crimini mushrooms
for the butter:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
4 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp anchovy paste
1 large pinch salt
Slice your veggies and set aside. Because they will be discarded later, I wouldn’t worry about peeling the carrot.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Trim any fat or connective tissue off the cheek and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Warm the ghee in a Dutch oven on medium heat for a couple minutes, then add the beef cheek.
Brown the cheek for about three minutes, until it forms a nice brown crust, then flip and brown for another three minutes.
Remove the cheek from the Dutch oven and set aside, then add the chopped veggies and herbs. Sauté until softened, about five minutes.
Add the red wine and stir together, gently scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to deglaze.
Add the beef cheek, and the chicken and beef broths. The liquid should cover at least half of the meat; if it doesn’t, add more chicken and beef broths.
Cover the Dutch oven and put it in the oven, and roast at 325 degrees until it is very soft, about three or four hours. Flip the beef cheek every hour. As the beef cheek braises, you can prepare your cauliflower purée in advance and re-heat it when you’re ready to serve everything.
You know the beef cheek is done when easily pierced with a fork. Mine took three hours.
Next, gently remove the beef cheek and put it on a plate, cover it, and set aside. Leave the oven on! We’re going to use it again in a second. Using a fine wire mesh or colander, strain the remaining liquid and discard the mushy veggies.
Return the strained liquid and cheek to the Dutch oven, then add the peeled carrots and sliced mushrooms. Cover and return to the oven until the veggies are softened, about 10-15 minutes. You should only have a little bit of liquid left at this point, which is perfect – you only need a few spoonfuls of it to get the full flavor profile.
As the veggies cook, let’s prepare the final piece of this puzzle: anchovy butter! It sounds a little strange to go with a beef dish, but trust me – this butter is an umami taste explosion, and works perfectly with this dish. You can find anchovy paste in most grocery stores, and it’s much easier to work with than dried anchovies.
You can either leave your butter out for an hour before making the butter, or zap it for a few seconds until a little softened. Next, stir all of the ingredients together – minced garlic, olive oil, salt, anchovy paste, and chopped parsley. That’s it – pretty easy.
Okay, you’ve made it this far – now let’s plate your meal and enjoy the fruits of your labor. I served it together in one big bowl; the cheek fell apart so easily that we all just picked at it with some tongs and spooned everything else onto our own plates.
To plate, add the cauliflower, arrange the carrots, then spoon the sauce and mushrooms around the cauliflower. Lastly, add the cheek and spoon some butter on top. In other words, make it look like the picture at the top of this recipe.
Be sure to keep the rest of the butter handy, because you’re going to want to put it on everything.