Braised pig’s cheeks is probably the best tapas I have eaten in Spain, it is meaty and surprisingly lean. It does need to be braised, slow cooked over a low heat for at least a few hours. A Tapas dish comes to one’s mind, repeatedly. Served as dark as night, soft enough to require no knife and served with northern vegetables. If you ever was wondering where all our own pig’s cheeks went the sad answer is mincemeat. Nevertheless, you can still get them, a well-stocked butcher may need a few days’ warning, but once you have them, they are easy to prepare.
Pig’s cheeks respond best to slow cooking in a hearty liquid imbue, with softened onions, a few sweet root vegetables, a bunch of thyme or bay and a generous depth of port. A dinner of braised cheeks takes just 15 minutes to prepare. Most of the work is waiting by the oven, where the meat must sit submerged in rich liquor for a couple of hours or more. Do not disturb J
This is Tapas serves for ten people.
- 20 Iberian pork cheeks about 1.8 kilo cleaned and trimmed of all tough membranes
- 2 onion
- 12 shallots
- 2 green apple
- 4 carrots
- 2 red pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 cups of port wine
- 2 bay leaf, preferably fresh
- 4 Tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 Tablespoons of flour
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cups of beef stock
Do make a nice paste by smashing the garlic in a mortar and pestle and add in the thyme, honey, parsley and a tablespoon of water. It is important that your pork cheeks is completely dry before marinating them. If not pat them with paper towels and then cover the pork cheeks with the paste and season with salt and pepper. Let them sit for at least an hour before cooking, allowing them to absorb the flavors.
Quickly lightly dredge the pork cheeks in flour. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan on a medium high heat and sear the pork cheeks for about 30 seconds per each of its 3-4 sides until all sides is browned nicely. After searing the cheek, remove them from the pan and reserve the oil.
Dice the onion and red pepper. Peel the shallots and cut each one in half. Cut the carrots into thin round slices. Transfer the oil used to sear the meat into a large, heavy pot, top it up with a little more oil if it do not completely cover the bottom of your pot.
On a low heat, sauté the onions, peppers, shallots and carrots for 15 minutes. When the vegetables are golden, add the pork cheek and the 2 cups of port wine. My favorite is sweet port, but any port will do, although there are various varieties of port wine and each will leave you with a slightly different dish.
Add the bay leaf and, over a medium heat, allow everything to reduce 50%, about 15 minutes. Make sure to stir while it is reducing or it will stick. Add the beef stock to the pot and cook over a low heat for about 3 hours, until the carrilladas are completely tender.
When you are twenty minutes before taking the pot off the heat. Peel the apples and dice them to a medium dice, and add them to the pot. When everything is fork tender, take off the heat and serve.
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