Tender braised pork cheek in wine sauce is a strong and powerful flavoured dish although the meat is so tender and melt on your tongue. I’ve encountered this dish on a tapas night out in San Sebastian, Spain, hidden Tapas bar in a downtown plaza dark corner called “La cuchara de San Telmo“, a divine place! It’s their star dish, they don’t even have to write it down on the menu board anymore.. since it’s so popular. It was served as a tapas, which means it was a small portion, but it was too good to just get a bite… we add to order a second time this tapa. Simply divine!
The trick here is to cook slow and long your pork cheek! Especially with this particular piece of meat. The pork cheek is so underrated, it should be the most expensive and exquisite piece of pork but lucky for our wallet it’s not… Cheeks got all the flavour and it’s relatively a lean part, it’s secret lays in collagen, which is a flavour bomb and if cook properly get so tender. Any piece of meat with lot of collagen, like ribs for example, need a long and slow cooking process in order for the collagen to turn into tender gelatin (jelly). Once that process is done, your meat will melt like butter on your tongue. A pleasure!
Let’s do some San Sebastian Tapas!
Braised pork cheek in red wine sauce
Makes 4 portions
- 4 pork cheeks (with the bone)
- 400ml red wine
- 400ml chicken stock
- 150g of french shallots
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp cornstarch mix into 3tbsp of cold water (or 1tsp of sugarless chocolate)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 Bouquet garni (thyme, laurel, anise star and black pepper grain)
- 3 big potatoes
- 500ml warm milk
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- nutmeg, salt, pepper
Bring oven to 170°C (320F)
- Cut of the white membrane on top of the pork cheeks… if any, and add salt, pepper to the pieces
- In a pan, sear the pieces in olive oil, until brown on each side (deglazed with the wine, then add to the oven pot, to take all the flavours from the pan)
- Transfer the cheeks into an oven pot (deep enough) and add the bouquet garni, shallots, wine and broth.
- Cook at 170°C (320F) for 2-2 1/2 hours, turn mid-time, keep the meat moist by once in awhile covering with the bottom sauce
- Make the potatoes 25 minutes before the end of the meat, cook potatoes, then mash them with the rest of the ingredients
- When the cheeks are cooked, reserve them on a plate
- Pass through a sieve the bottom juice into a pan, reduce the sauce until nice brown color
- Add the thickener; cornstarch in water or sugar free chocolate
- Reduce until the sauce slightly stick to the back of a spoon
- Once off the flame add butter
- Take the bone off the meat pieces (it should come right off passing a knive in between)
- Serve the pork cheeks on the mashed potatoes and top with the wine sauce
Add a few shallots to the plates and extra wine sauce in a small pot to accommodate those many sauce lovers. Enjoy!