And then it was Fall. I have to say, I missed you all this Summer. I was making salads, eating raw fruits and vegetables, grilling pasture raised meats--for some reason pork captured a lot of my attention. We traveled to France on an incredible odyssey. While I don't think their children are necessarily better behaved than ours, as a population they do enjoy better overall health and look a lot happier and fit than most Americans. While I found a lot of the food there to be repetitive, their go-to methods of preparation are far better than ours and is one of the factors, I believe, to their overall condition. Take braising. You use a lower priced quality piece of meat that is thought of as "tough" and you turn it into the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth, why haven't you made this for us before? meal that your family and guests will never forget. I did this with Beef Cheeks last night from Tara Firma Farms and the kids got to take leftovers to school today. Beef Cheeks are a little harder to come by, just let your butcher know you are interested they'll get them for you, but if you just happen to see them, buy them up. I used 4 16oz. cheeks last night and yes, there were leftovers, but not a ton. I paired this also with some roasted fennel from Tomatero Farm and broccoli from Swanton Berry Farm.
Braised Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Broccoli
original recipe here
- 2 tablespoons lard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 (12-16oz) beef cheeks, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 medium organic onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium organic carrot, finely chopped
- 1 organic celery rib, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups red wine (preferably a dry Lambrusco or Chianti)
- 1 32 oz. organic can whole tomatoes including juice, chopped (3 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 sweet potato (optional)
Heat lard in an ovenproof 6-10-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, pat beef cheeks dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown beef, without crowding, on all sides, about 20 minutes total, and transfer with tongs to a bowl. Pour off fat from pot, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook onion, carrot, and celery over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Stir cocoa powder into vegetable mixture, then add wine and scrape up any brown bits. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Return cheeks (with any juices) to pot and add tomatoes with juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then braise, covered, in middle of oven until very tender, about 3 hours.
When done, remove cheeks from oven, keep covered and set aside. Turn oven up to 400-425--if you have a convection feature on your oven use this. Slice fennel, wash and chop broccoli into florets. If doing sweet potatoes too, peel and slice into discs. Toss the fennel and broccoli with the olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss the sliced sweet potato with the coconut oil, covering every disc as well as possible (you may have to do this with your hands if the oil is solidified). Spread on a foil lined baking sheet and season with a little salt. You can put both sheets in the oven at once. At the 10 min. mark stir the vegetables, flipping the sweet potatoes over so they will evenly brown. Set the timer for an additional 10 min. checking on everything at about min. 8 to make sure nothing is burning. Stir everything up again and let them go until you get to your desired crispness from 2-5 min. longer. Ladle everything into a bowl, the sauce is heavenly with the extra vegetables added.