Ultra tender braised pork cheeks in wine sauce with shallots on a bed of mashed potatoes, a tasty tapa or main dish recipe coming straight from Spain.
Braised pork cheeks in wine sauce is a delicate yet powerful dish. Although the meat is tender and melts on your tongue, the flavour is outstanding. I encountered this dish on a tapas night in San Sebastian, Spain. Lost in a dark corner of a little plaza, in a place called “La Cuchara de San Telmo,” a heavenly place! It’s their star dish; they no longer have to write it down on the menu board since it’s so popular. It is served as tapas, which means a small portion. It was so good that we added to order it a second time. This recipe is my take on this famous dish called Carrilleras de cerdo al vino tapa!
The trick here is to cook slow and long pork cheeks! They are so underrated; they should be the most expensive and exquisite piece of pork, but lucky for our wallets, it’s not… Cheeks got all the flavour, and it’s a relatively lean part. Its secret? The collagen! Which is a flavour bomb and, if cooked properly, gets so tender. For example, meat with lots of collagen, like ribs, needs a long and slow cooking process for the collagen to turn into this tender gelatine (jelly). Once that process is done, your meat will melt like butter on your tongue. A true pleasure!
Your butcher can leave the bone on; it will come off easily at the end of cooking. This cut is relatively small, so one isn’t enough for a main dish; I would always make two cheeks per person.
The Red Wine Sauce
Tips for a perfect, deep brown sauce (a.k.a. gravy) made from scratch: Chocolate! Yeah! You’ve heard me: CHOCOLATE! It’s a hidden secret of Grands Chefs... You need a tiny bit at the end of cooking your sauce with a touch of butter to give extra shine and texture, and voila! You get an unctuous, deep brown sauce for your pork cheeks!
Other Meals for Meat Lovers
Let’s do some Tapas!
Tender Braised Pork Cheek in Red Wine Sauce
The pork cheeks
- 4 pork cheeks (with bone if possible)
- 400 ml chicken broth
- 375 ml red wine
- 150 g shallots (peeled but whole)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp dark chocolate (or cornstarch)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 bouquet garni (or 1 tbsp of thyme)
The mashed potatoes
- 3 big potatoes
- 500 ml warm milk
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 tsp nutmeg (*optional)
- salt and pepper
- Cut off the white membrane on top of the pork cheeks… if any, and add salt and pepper to the cheeks (keep the bone if possible).
- In a pan or casserole, 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-proof container or casserole and add the bouquet garni, shallots, wine and broth.
- Cook at 180°C (350F°) for 2-2 1/2 hours, turn mid-time, and keep the meat moist by occasionally pouring some of the bottom sauce on the cheek.
- Cook the potatoes in boiling water 25 minutes before the end of the meat.
- When the cheeks are cooked, reserve them covered with the shallots.
- Pass through a sieve, put the juice left into a pan, and reduce the sauce until it has a nice creamy texture.
- Mash the peeled potatoes with the milk, olive oil, nutmed, salt and pepper.
- Add the thickener, dark chocolate or cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp of cold water.
- Reduce until the sauce slightly sticks to the back of a spoon.
- Add butter and let it melt gently.
- Take the bone off the pieces of meat (it should come right off).
- Serve the meat on the mashed potatoes, add a few shallots and cover with wine sauce.