Tuesday 13 October 2015

Slow Cooked Ox Cheek

I've been cooking this dish a lot recently, attempting to perfect it. Ox cheek is my current favourite when it comes to cuts of meat. They are a beautiful thing raw; a really intense deep red, and they smell lovely, an earthy meaty smell that I love. I haven't tried them raw, but they look like they might be tasty, and I've been thinking about curing and air drying a few as I think they would be rich and delicious.

Recently however I've been slow cooking them. I've taken advice from Richard Olney, Nigel Slater and Elizabeth David, not personally you understand, and have ended up with my current method which I'll continue to work on.

I think it is safe to say that a lot of the success of this lies in your beef stock, so be prepared to take your time over it. My last batch was my best yet. I think, that might have been down to the bone marrow... I found myself at the kitchen bench having a little snack of bone marrow sprinkled with salt at about 10am the other morning, I did think to myself 'what on earth are you doing eating this at 10am' but soon realised I didn't give a damn and was pretty delighted to be snacking on bone marrow at 10am. Perks.

If you make a big batch of stock you can freeze some, it then makes the ox cheek a much more simple dish to prepare next time you want to cook it. You will want to cook it again, I'm guessing. Ask your butcher for some beef bones, make sure you get a few with some marrow you can scoop out. Then roast the bones at 200˚C for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown and the fat is sizzling. 

While they are cooking get a big pan, heat a splash of oil, and fry a couple of chopped onions, a big pinch of salt, a couple of chopped red onions, a couple of chopped peeled carrots (the skin can be bitter in a stock) a couple of sticks of chopped celery, a chopped leek, a few sprigs of parsley, a couple of bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic and cook this all until it softens and starts to turn golden. Then add in the beef bones and enough water to cover everything, a few litres usually. You don't want too much water as you'll loose the flavour, just enough to cover.

Then bring the whole thing to the boil and simmer very gently for 3 hours. It should be only just moving. 'Don't boil the love out of it' someone once told me and I remember it every time. About half way through you should be able to scoop the bone marrow out of the bones, leave it to melt into the stock as it continues to cook. I usually do all this the day before as it's quite a time consuming task.

Now to the cheeks. I serve one cheek per person, but make a few extra just in case you fancy a bit more. Season the cheeks with salt on both sides. Heat a large cast iron pan or frying pan with a splash of olive oil and lay in the ox cheeks when it's hot. Don't crowd them, do them in batches if needs be. Don't move them around, just leave them to brown in one place for a couple of minutes on each side, you're looking for golden brown patches to form, all adding to the final flavour. Do this slowly, don't rush, and place the ox cheeks into a deep baking tray or oven dish as they are ready. Then add two sliced onions and two thickly sliced cloves of garlic to the pan you browned the meat in and cook slowly until golden.

Now add 125ml of red wine and the juice of an orange to the onion pan, heat on high and scrape up anything meaty stuck to the bottom of the pan, until it has reduced slightly, pour this over the ox cheeks, then add your delicious beef stock until the cheeks are just poking out of the top, about a litre. Finally add to the pan a chopped carrot, a couple of strips of zest from the orange, the skin of a pear and lots of black pepper. Cover with tin foil or a lid and cook in the oven at 180˚C for 3 hours, turning the cheeks occasionally. There's a turn the other cheek joke in there somewhere...

Then they are ready, they are the most beautifully soft melty delicious things, with a rich reduced gravy to boot. Serve an ox cheek per person with some vegetables and gravy spooned over, lots of horseradish or mustard, mash, polenta, whatever you fancy. It's been on the menu at Cook House quite a lot recently, I can't see myself tiring of it any time soon...

1 comment:

  1. This is a time consuming recipe, and a lot of work. But the outcome looks delicious. Guess the flavors will be strong, maybe some spices like cinnamon and cumin will be really good to add into this. :)


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