Pigs have only 2 cheeks each and I wonder how much a catty (or ~ 600gr) of cheeks would cost if this low cut meat was more popular.
So far I have tasted beef, pork and fish cheeks. Yes, fish cheeks I learned to eat them here in Hong Kong and believe me: it’s tasty and refined. It is considered to be the best part of the fish and you are privileged if cheeks are offered to you. The head of steamed groupers (or garoupas – 石斑魚) are indeed a delicacy (but this could be developed in another post). If you have never tried it I recommend that you do.
Of the whole pork, the cheek is one the most tender parts.
Cheeks used to be considered a low cut (worthless). Although it is more common to cook them today they are not frequently seen on the Chinese restaurants’ menus. I am surprised as it is a delicate meat, lean and tender.
Pork Cheeks in Red Wine Sauce
- 2 pork cheehs (cut into pieces)
- 1 pack of fresh buttons mushrooms, sliced
- 110 ml red wine
- 2 small tomatoes cut into quarters
- 2 Tbsp. tomato purée
- 2 leaks, cut into 2” width
- 1 carrot, cut into large chunks
- 10 peppercorns
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp. butter and 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- Optional: A few sundried tomatoes (previously soaked in warm water)
- In a large Dutch pot (I use my Le Creuset) brown the cheeks pieces in oil and butter in batches. Put aside.
- Preheat oven at 180-200⁰C for 15 minutes.
- In same pot (add oil if necessary) stir-fry onion until soft and slightly brown.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid boils off.
- Add the tomato purée, the fresh and sundried tomatoes, and wine. Stir well.
- Add the cheeks and water (150-200 ml).
- Add salt and pepper, peppercorn and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and put pot in oven for one hour.
- Halfway through cooking time (1 hour later) add leaks and carrots.
- Cook for another 1 hour.
I served the dish with linguine but the next day we had the leftover with plain steamed rice. The red wine sauce goes very well with both of them. The cheeks were moist and melted in the mouth. I was pleasantly surprised to find that once the sauce had cool down there was no layer of fat on top as it is often the case with other cuts of meat.
- I will cook it again but next time I will ask my pork butcher, instead of chopping the cheeks into pieces, to debone them so as to keep them as much as possible intact and avoid finding too many small bones in the sauce.
- I cooked them in a moderate oven but if we cook them on the stovetop and braise them over a medium heat it should take less time.
- Total weight of the meat was 1kg - including bones.
I will definitely make this dish again. Try it and good luck!