Monday, 2 March 2015

Cheeky treat - pork cheeks braised in sherry and apple sauce

I once read about a survey in which former vegetarians were asked what had made them return to the merry world of carnivores. #1 answer? Bacon. 

Having dabbled in both vegetarianism and kosher, pork isn't something I've ever particularly pigged out on. Until I found an Englishman and with him, bacon. The man has since come and gone, but pork remains. Our love affair had, after all, been taken to a whole new level by my discovery of Iberico pork! 

There's no going back now. This is the sort of true love that I'll cherish for the rest of my life (for more on Iberico and my love of it, please click on here!)

Pork cheeks, carrillada, are a treat typical to Madrid region in particular. A couple of hours  of braising make this hard-working muscle a melt-in-your-mouth-miracle. 

We served ours with Jerusalem artichoke pure, incredibly elegant in itself, topped with freekeh served in two ways for a restaurant quality culinary feast. Freekeh, an ancient Middle Eastern grain, could also be substituted with bulghur.

Iberico has an amazing, dark meatiness that no other pork comes even close to. So, if you do get a chance, go for Iberico pork cheeks.

Iberico pork cheeks braised in sherry and apple sauce:

Serves 4-5

1,6 kg (Iberico) pork cheeks
500 g small shallots
1/2 bunch of thyme


2 dl dry (Olorosa) sherry
2 dl apple pure
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp mustard
1/4 dl soy sauce

For finishing the sauce: 25 g butter, salt, pepper (if needed)

Trim the pork cheeks of the membranes. You'll be left with about 1,3 kilos after this. Combine the ingredients for he marinade, pour over the pork cheeks and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Take pork cheeks into room temperature a couple of hours prior to cooking them. Lift them out of the marinade (reserve it!) and pat dry. Working in batches, brown the cheeks in  a hot pan in a combination of butter and oil. 

Peel the onions and sauté them too.

Transfer pork cheeks, onions and thyme sprigs into an oven-proof dish, pour in the marinade and (if needed) a couple of dl of water. Cover and braise at 150 for 3-4 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork cheeks and onions. Keep warm. Strain the braising liquid into a pot. Over high heat reduce until thickened to a sauce of your liking. Check the taste, season as needed and whisk in the butter. Serve with pork cheeks, onions, Jerusalem artichoke pure and top with freekeh.

Jerusalem artichoke puré:

500 g Jerusalem artichokes
2 dl heavy cream
2 dl milk
salt, white pepper
a couple of drops of truffle oil

Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into similar size chunks. Place into a pot and pour enough milk and cream to cover them. Over medium heat cook until done, depending on the size this will take 15-20 minutes. Blizz into a puré adding enough milk and cream mixture to get the right consistency. Season with salt and white pepper and (if you really want to spoil your diners!) a couple of drops of truffle oil.

Deep-fried freekeh:

1 dl freekeh
2,5 dl water

For frying: a couple of dl of oil

Cook freekeh according to the instructions on the package in salted water. Steam until dry. Divide in two and pat the other half dry (this minimizes splattering of the oil).

Heat oil in a heavy-based small pot and fry freekeh in batches for about 5 seconds until it's crunchy and golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels and serve.

Chilean Leyda Single Vineyard Canelo Syrah is a great wine for this dish along with stews in general, especially ones made with game. It's full-bodied but balanced and its soft, round tannins make for a smooth wine, full of berryish notes. Fantastic wine!




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