This recipe marries two incredible entities; the classic French dish of Bourguignon and the sumptuously meaty flavour of beef cheeks, or joues de boeuf.
The Bourguignon first: although associated primarily with beef, the term à la Bourguignonne is a general one for anything that is cooked in red wine e.g. meat, fish, sautéed chicken and poached eggs. It is often served garnished with button mushrooms, baby onions and a good dose of fatty bacon lardons. Most famously though the term is associated with the regional fare of Burgundy. I recently asked a Frenchman here in Melbourne what wine he uses in his Boeuf Bourguignon, as Australia has an incredible selection of good wine.
He looked at me and went “puh…Côte-du-Rhone naturellement!” I couldn’t really argue, mainly because my French was not up to scratch. And in truth, French wine is pretty darn good.
So, beef cheeks? They are a very much an underrated carnivorous offering that are often dismissed due to a misjudged perception that they are not going to be good to eat or to lack of patience in the hours needed to tenderise them.
The cheeks are not the most enticing of lookers; well not until they are trimmed. They are literally the cheeks of the cow and as such do an incredible amount of work during a bovine’s life-time. All the chewing and grinding of fresh grass and cud leaves these muscles incredibly tough and potentially nuclear resistant. However, this is a signal for those in the know that we are looking at a phenomenal taste profile if a little patience and technique is applied. If you have a penchant to smell real beef then smell a fresh beef cheek; it’s carnivorous nectar.
In this recipe I curl the cheeks in half and tie them. Once cooked and untied they retain this wonderful shape.
So on to beef cheek Bourguignon – there is not much of a story behind this; no sabbatical to the depths of Burgundy, for example. This dish came about simply by the love of beef cheeks and cooking à la Bourguignonne, and how desperate I was to try the two together. Bon appétit.
Serves: 5 | Preparation: marinade 3 hours + prep 45 minutes | Cooking: About 4 hours
2 Carrots | Peeled and sliced.
2 sticks Celery | Sliced.
1 Bouquet garni | See here for bouquet garni.
1 Leek | Sliced. The outer skin can be used for the bouquet garni above.
2 Brown onions | Peeled and roughly chopped.
4 Garlic cloves | Peeled and halved.
450ml Veal stock | For homemade stock see here.
750ml Red wine | Make sure the wine is good enough to drink. I used an Australian Shiraz – but if you have a good French red use that!
5 Beef cheeks – trimmed | 5 trimmed beef cheeks is about 1.3kg of meat.
4 tbsp. Olive oil |
1 tbsp. Plain flour |
1 carrot Sliced |
1 tbsp. Olive oil | To fry the bacon
100g Streaky bacon | Cut in to lardons (small strips).
250g Button mushrooms | Swiss browns are excellent.
16 Baby onions | Peeled. Pickling onions can be used.
40g Butter |
1 tsp. White sugar |
1 tbsp. Plain flour |
2 Sprigs Parsley | For garnish.
Ensure the beef cheeks are trimmed of any outer sinew and fat. Fold each one in half and tie with butcher’s string.
To a large heavy based casserole dish add the beef cheeks, 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks, bouquet garni, leek, brown onions, garlic cloves, veal stock and bottle of red wine. Leave to marinade in a fridge for 3 hours. After 3 hours remove the beef cheeks from the marinade and set aside. Then drain the vegetables and bouquet garni and set aside. Reserve the marinade.
Preheat an oven to 150 deg C. (300 deg F.)
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the heavy based casserole dish and add the beef cheeks. Sprinkle one tablespoon of flour over the cheeks and brown them on all sides. Set the beef cheeks aside. Add a further 1 tablespoon of oil to the casserole and brown half of the vegetables and set aside. Repeat with the other half of vegetables and set aside.
Add the marinade to the casserole, bring it to the boil and on medium heat reduce by one third. Skim any foam scum that rises to the surface. Once reduced, add the beef cheeks, vegetables and bouquet garni to the marinade. Cover the casserole dish with two sheets of foil and then the lid. Put in the oven for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, blanch the carrots in boiling water until tender. Remove the carrots and then add the bacon lardons to the water. Blanch for about 30 seconds and then drain. Blanching the bacon removes the smokiness, a flavour that is not required in the Bourguignon.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the drained lardons until browned, then set aside. In the same pan add 15g of butter and fry the mushrooms until browned and slightly soft to the touch. Set aside.
Add another 15g of butter to the frying pan and sauté the baby onions until browned. Then add a little water (a tablespoon or so), one teaspoon of white sugar, and salt and pepper for seasoning. Cover the frying pan with a lid and on a medium heat cook the onions until tender. Add a little more water of they start to dry out.
After 3 hours remove the beef cheeks from the oven (leave the oven on). Very carefully remove the beef cheeks and set aside. Now drain the vegetables and bouquet garni and discard; reserve the cooking liquid. Clean any leftovers from the casserole dish and pour in the reserved cooking liquid. On the stove bring to a simmer. Take the remaining 10g of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour and mix until a smooth paste is formed (known as beurre meunière); add this to the simmering cooking liquid and whisk until all the butter has melted. Take the liquid off the heat and carefully add the beef cheeks, carrots, mushrooms, bacon and baby onions. Put the lid on the casserole dish (no foil this time) and put it back in the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately – one cheek per person. If there are only four of you then one lucky onion gets an extra cheek!
- This method seems a little long-winded but it really is so worth it – and those cheeks are so soft and the strands separate at the mere flick of a fork.