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Beef Cheek Bourguignon

Introduction:

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

 

Ingredients:

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.

 

 

How To:

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!

 

Notes:

  • 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.

Veal Stock

Introduction:

Stock is the magic in the kitchen; it’s the process of turning waste in to wealth. You have your fish and chicken stocks which are the nice little quaint ones that dance around on their tip-toes delicately displaying their dainty flavour profiles. Imagine them to be the Enya of the stock world.

Now let’s bring in some heavy grungy rock and forthrightly introduce the big boy of the stock world – veal. This stock swans around grunting and growling letting all and sundry know that if he’s on your plate he will steal the show.

For all the grace and finesse of the French they do love to let their Gallic hair down and get serious with some really big flavour; and our veal stock will do this in spades. He may initially seem just a step up in flavour from monsieur poulet, but get him bubbling and simmering for a while and he turns in to demi-glace, a blindingly meaty, complex and startlingly fine sauce base. If you want to turn him into some thrash metal god that will do to your taste buds what the music will to your ears and head then reduce him further and you’ve got the king; the glace.

For all its bravado however, leaving the veal stock unreduced highlights its versatility as it delivers finesse and subtlety, especially in fish sauces. The veal stock here can be used for gentle sauces or reduced down to a demi-glace or glace.

 

Serves: 2 litres   |   Preparation:  1 hour + settle overnight   |   Cooking: 4 hours

 

Ingredients:

2kg Veal bones | Cut into 10-15cm pieces.
2 Carrots | Peeled and sliced.
2 Brown onions | Peeled and roughly chopped.
125ml White wine | I used a pinot grigio – but a nice light, dry and fragrant wine is good.
2 Celery stalks | Finely sliced.
60g Swiss brown mushrooms | Finely sliced.
Small Leek | Use the outer layer for the bouquet garni below. Finely slice the white part.
1 clove Garlic |  
400ml Tomatoes | A tin of diced tomatoes is good. Otherwise use 6 medium ripe tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped).
1 Bouquet garni | See Bouquet Garni for Chicken and Meat.

 

 

How To:

Preheat oven to 230 deg C (450 deg F). Put the veal bones in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally so that the bones are browned all over. Now put the carrots and onions in with the bones and roast for a further 10 minutes.

Transfer the bones, carrots and onions in to a stock pot. Deglaze the roasting tin with the white wine ensuring that all those dark crusty bits (the flavoursome ones) are lifted from the tin. Pour the deglazed wine and juices into the stock pot. Now add 4 litres of cold water to the stock pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and skim any foamy scum that rises to the surface. The best way to do this is to take a small ladle or tablespoon, swirl the water until the foam moves outwards and then skim. When the water is clear add the celery, mushrooms, leek, garlic, tomatoes and bouquet garni. Bring back to the boil and then put on a very low simmer for 3 hours, leaving the pot uncovered.

When the three hours are up strain the stock through a fine sieve and then allow it to cool. Put the stock in the fridge overnight. The fat will solidify and rise to the surface. Strain the stock through a sieve lined with muslin cloth to remove all of the fat.

 

Notes:

  • The stock keeps for about a week in the fridge; otherwise freeze in portions.
  • Reduce the strained stock by one third for a demi-glace.
  • Reduce the strained stock by one half for a glace.

 

Lamb Stock

Introduction:

Making stock can be a right royal pain in the derriere – the concept I initially struggled with was spending hours cooking something that was not going to be eaten straight away. The roasting, boiling, skimming, simmering, filtering, chilling, skimming, filtering… and for what? For liquid gold, that is what. And that is why the struggle was only initial because when I discovered the potential of home-made stock it became a culinary pleasure; a necessity; a vital part of flavour in the kitchen.

Lamb stock is amazing. Reduced down to a glace (when a stock is reduced to 10% of its original volume) or demi-glace (stock is reduced to 25-40% of its original volume) you end up with a wonderfully rich sauce which can transform the nice into the incredible; something I believe is used in the armoury of good chefs to elevate their food into the heavenly.

I really like to understand why things happen and what happens when cooking and have recently been interested in stocks. Have you ever wondered why red meat stocks are cooked for much longer than chicken or fish stocks? Why does the fat that aggregates at the surface of a stock have very little taste yet we know that the fat in marbled steak contains a lot of flavour? What is the initial foam that accumulates on the surface and why should it be skimmed?

 

Quick answers to these questions:

Red meat bones are more robust than chicken, which are more robust than fish. Apart from compounds that are easily extracted from the connective tissues in red meat when making stock there is another process that occurs. This process is the break down (hydrolysis) of collagen, the main protein of connective tissue, to components such as gelatine. This break down requires prolonged exposure to heat (simmering), usually for a few hours. Apart from the other ingredients, such as herbs and vegetables, this breakdown of the connective tissue is what imparts the wonderful flavour to stock. In addition, the browning of the bones prior to simmering promotes the Maillard reaction (breakdown of surface proteins) which adds significant flavour to the stock.

Regarding the tasteless fat on the surface of the stock – usually flavour components are fat soluble or water soluble (there are chemicals to help components dissolve in both, but that’s getting too much into chemistry!). It is believed that the compounds that are extracted during the simmering and breaking down of the collagen in stock are water soluble so dissolve in the water and not the fat; hence tasteless fat. When cooking steak the collagen and fat is not heated long enough to break down so the flavour remains in the fat.

And that foam at the surface of the stock – these are proteins that broken down and then coagulate and form the foam. They don’t add any value to the stock, and need to be removed especially if you are making a clear stock, such as a consommé.

There is a whole science around what happens when making stock which I have only just scratched the surface of. However, the bottom line is that whatever wizardry happens during the cooking, a great stock should be on hand…and here’s your chance now to make yourself a super little lamb stock.

 

Serves:  2.5 litres   |   Preparation:  1 hour + settle overnight  |   Cooking: 5 hours

 

Ingredients:

2.5kg Lamb bones | Cut into 10-15cm pieces.
2 Carrots | Peeled and roughly chopped.
2 Celery sticks | Roughly chopped.
2 Brown onions | Peeled and roughly chopped.
½ kg Tomatoes | Nice and ripe – you can use Roma, as an example.
1 Bouquet garni | See Bouquet Garni for Chicken and Meat – substitute rosemary for tarragon.

 

 

How To:

Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350 deg F). Put your lamb bones in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about an hour. We want to see some lovely browning and great lamb aromas emanating. Put the roasted bones in a stock pan with 5 litres of cold water. Discard any lamb fat from the roasting tin. Add 100ml of water to the roasting tin, heat it on the stove top, and using a wooden spoon deglaze the tin. Pour the deglaze into the stock pot.

Bring the water and bones to the boil and then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Skim away the foam that congregates at the surface. The best way to do this is to take a small ladle or tablespoon, swirl the water until the foam moves outwards and then skim. When the water is clear add the vegetables, tomatoes and bouquet garni. Bring back to the boil and then put on a very low simmer for 4 hours, leaving the pot uncovered.

When the four hours are up strain the stock through a fine sieve and then allow the stock to cool. Put the stock in the fridge overnight. The fat will rise to the surface and solidify. Remove the hardened fat and then strain again through a fine meshed sieve.

 

Notes:

  • The stock keeps for about a week in the fridge; otherwise freeze in portions.
  • Lamb stock has a very distinct flavour and is therefore mostly used in lamb based dishes.

 

Bouquet Garni for Chicken and Meat

Introduction:

I remember in years past following recipes that asked for a bouquet garni and being quite put out by the need to collect numerous species of herbaceous plants, plus a few other odds and sods, and then have to wrap my gathering in muslin cloth or tie it with ‘kitchen’ string (which of course never existed in my culinary world), and all for what? No, it was way too much hassle to even consider something that would only be thrown away at the end of cooking. And by the way some clever company had designed some teabag like contraption which contained the dried variety of everything you needed to flavour your stew or casserole – no, I never used those either.

Roll on to recent times, and you will see a different outtake on the humble bouquet garni. If flavour is what is important in your cooking, and I am bordering on the rhetoric there, then a bouquet garni is what will deliver that piece de resistance in terms of that flavour. For me it is now an empirical part of any stock that I make, and is used when appropriate to flavour sauces and casseroles. The beauty of it is that it can, and should, be a representation of what you can obtain locally. For example in Provence rosemary is always added, whereas in Old French cookery cloves and various herbs were bundled together and wrapped in a thin rasher of bacon. In Italy there is the mazzetto, which contains rosemary, sage and often celery, leek or orange peel.

The composition is unlimited, but always consider the harmony that is trying to be achieved with the final dish or stock.

This basic recipe is for a bouquet garni that I use when chicken or meat (lamb and veal) is the principal component, mostly in stocks. The inspiration was from Michel Roux – the idea of wrapping everything in a leek is genius, just as long as I have some of that kitchen string (which I now get from the local butcher in 500km…ish balls).

 

Serves: 1 stock or casserole   |   Preparation:  10 minutes   |   Cooking: Dependent on the dish

 

Ingredients:

1 medium sized Leek | Trim the ends keeping the white part – remove the outer layer and use the next two layers.
2 Bay leaves | I use fresh bay leaves for their more vibrant flavour (not necessarily more intense). Dried can certainly be used.
½ stalk Celery | Cut into thin  strips.
6 Parsley stalks | The stalks have an intense flavour.
1 sprig Tarragon | Fresh.
1 sprig Thyme | Fresh.
6 whole White pepper corns |
4 whole Black pepper corns |

 

 

How To:

Take the two leek layers that have been prepared. Lay them out flat with the top of one layer overlapping the bottom of the other layer.

Over the leek layers lay the bay leaves, celery strips, parsley stalks, tarragon sprig, thyme sprig, white peppercorns and the black peppercorns. Now the slightly tricky bit – wrap the leek fairly tightly round the ingredients and then tie each end with kitchen string, tight enough to hold the bundle together, but not too tight as to cut through the leek. Now that’s done put it in your stock or the dish that you’re preparing, sit back and enjoy the aromas from the kitchen.

Notes:

  • It’s important that the leek is really fresh for this to work. I have had countless times where when trying to wrap the leeks they just snap. I rarely have this problem with fresh leeks.