Slow-cooked Beef Dishes from the Wood Fired Oven – #1 – Ox Cheeks
It’s that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness especially looking out from here when the river is covered with banks of cloud. It’s also that time of year when we crave slow-cooked meltingly tender dishes of unusual beef, lamb and pork cuts.
This week we’re focussing on beef and what to do with one of those cuts you may not be too familiar with. As you can see from the diagram above, all the cuts that do the hard work of chewing, walking, lifting up that massive head, swatting away flies, cuts such as cheek, neck, oxtail, brisket, shin, also tend to be the traditionally cheaper cuts of meat and those that you can shove in your woodfired oven to use up the falling heat, shut the door and come back the next day to find all the hard work done.
Here’s is one of our favourites – the ox cheek:
Beef cheeks (or ox cheek) are fantastic bits of meat. Weighing in at around 300g each, they are striped through with fat and hardworking muscle, usually with a thin layer of fat around the outside. It’s not at all expensive – we picked one up last week for £3 – and you can get them from your butcher’s and increasingly in the supermarkets.
There are obviously only 2 to a cow so if you see them buy them and if you’re not ready to cook them, just put them in the freezer until you are ready; they don’t take up too much space.
We put one in a small pot with a sliced onion, a crushed clove of garlic, a teaspoon of grain mustard, a tin of chopped tomatoes, about 100ml stock (chicken is fine) and seasoned it all well with salt and pepper. With the lid on, the pot went into the wood fired oven when it was around about 5-6 Mississippi so around about 170C.
We then shut the door for 12 hours and took the pan out to cool completely when we got round to it – no hurry.
The next day, the whole mixture had set to a lovely jellied mass so we chopped it into 2cm pieces and put it in a pan to heat up on the hob with some halved cherry tomatoes. This was all cooked gently for around 20 minutes until the meat was well heated through and had fallen apart and the tomatoes had wilted into the juices. Then we stirred in some shredded basil leaves left over from pizza making and served it with pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
No extra red wine or beer, no base of vegetables other than an onion and no pre-browning the meat – really delicious and one cheek will feed 2 people very happily. It’s rich and delicious, not at all fatty, completely tender and when you first take a mouthful, one of those dishes to stop you in your tracks and slow down while you’re snjoying every last mouthful.
We could have use the cooked beef cheek to make any number of things including
- cottage pie
- soup a la oxtail
- Vietnamese Beef Pho
- curry – just add curry spices when you first cook it in the falling heat of the oven
- chilli – add chilli spices as above and then reheat gently with a drained tin of kidney beans
- tagine – add Moroccan spices and a few chopped prunes or apricots to the initial cooking
- served with mashed potatoes and a wilted green veg like kale
- add some fried sliced mushrooms and bacon lardons for a cheat’s boeuf bourguignonne