Pork cheeks slow cooker

Cooking with Corinna

After my failed quest for pork cheeks the other week, I finally got hold of some last week. As it hadn’t been long since I’d made the Ox Cheek Ragu, and still have some in the freezer, I decided not to make my usual Pork Cheek Ragu. I thought I’d try braising them in the slow cooker instead.

If you haven’t had pork cheeks before they’re well worth trying to find. I get mine from Waitrose, but you could ask a local butcher. You just want the cushion part, not the whole cheek. These are delicious little nuggets of meat, which after long slow cooker (hence perfect for a ragu or to use in the slow cooker) are wonderfully tender.

As I have to travel about 35 miles to get hold of them I tend to stock up cook my pork cheek recipes in big batches. I got 7 portions from the recipe below, with the excess going in the freezer. If you want to cook a smaller quantity allow about 3-4 cheeks per portion. You’ll also need to reduce the quantities (by about a third) if using a smaller slow cooker.

You can cook this recipe in a casserole. Simmer on the hob for about 3 hours.

Ingredients:

Pork cheeks – 3lb/1.5kg (about 21 cheeks)

Flour – 100g

Ground white pepper – ½ tablespoon

Salt – 1 teaspoon

Olive oil – 2-3 tablespoons (for frying)

Red onion – 1 large (peeled & diced)

Garlic – 3 cloves (finely diced or crushed)

Celery – 2 sticks (finely diced)

Carrots – 4 (peeled & sliced)

Swede – 1 medium (peeled & cut into small cubes)

Mushrooms – 350-400g (thickly sliced)

Chicken Stock – 1pt/550ml (I used 2 quantities of my homemade Chicken Stock)

Red wine – 200ml (optional)

Cider Vinegar – 50ml

Tomato puree – 1 tablespoon

Thyme – 1 teaspoon

Oregano – 1 teaspoon

Equipment: Chopping board, knife, frying pan, wooden spoon, slow cooker (5.7 litre capacity), plate, tongs

Method:

  1. Fry the onions in the frying pan, with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, on a medium-hot heat until soft and starting to colour.
  2. Add the garlic and celery and soften slightly.
  3. Meanwhile set the slow cooker on high, pour the hot stock, swede and carrots into the crock-pot, followed by the onions, celery and mushrooms, and cover.
  4. Prepare the pork cheeks removing the fatty membrane that’s on one side.
  5. On the plate mix together the flour, white pepper, and salt and coat the cheeks in the flour.
  6. Turn the heat on the frying pan to high and add another tablespoon of olive oil.
  7. Brown the cheeks in batches, taking care not to over fill the frying pan. Add more oil if necessary.
  8. Add the cheeks to the crock-pot, along with any excess flour, and herbs. Stir in.
  9. When all the meat has been browned turn the heat on the frying pan down to medium. Add the wine, cider vinegar and tomato puree to deglaze the pan. Reduce until it stops smelling of alcohol and add the crock-pot and stir in.
  10. Cover and cook on high for another hour, then low for 4-5 hours.
  11. Serve when meat it really tender and vegetables are cooked through.

Yes, we had the playful brûléed livers and the cod’s curd with bee pollen at A Fuego Negro; the legendary garlic prawns on their lip-piercing wooden skewers at Goiz Argi; the squid in its ink at Restaurante Ganbara and the dark, marbled Ibérico ham at Bar La Cepa. Later, we wolfed rabbit with fat nibs of young garlic, sliced anchovies in oil and lemon; fragile tartlets of shredded artichoke with parsley and tiny pixie-hat peppers filled to the brim with creamed cod. We drank endless glasses of ice-cold Txakoli and sampled more Ribera than I would care to admit, as I suspect do most on a pintxo crawl through the cobbled streets of San Sebastián.

It was a dish of braised pig’s cheeks, eaten just before our last bar of the evening closed, that I wanted to bring home to my own kitchen. Dark as night, soft enough to require no knife and served with almost soupy mashed potato, it left me wondering where all our own pig’s cheeks go. (Answer: mince.) Even a well-stocked butcher may need a few days’ warning, but once you have them in your clutches they are easy to prepare.

Pig’s cheeks respond best to slow cooking in a hearty liquid imbued perhaps, with softened onions, a few sweet root vegetables, a bunch of thyme or bay and a generous depth of red wine or perhaps cider or stout. A dinner of braised cheeks takes just 15 minutes to prepare. The bulk of the work is done by the oven, where the plump cushions of meat must sit submerged in rich liquor for a couple of hours or more. Do not disturb.

The dish is one of those where you let the gravy from the pan lap the edges of some sort of creamy starch on your plate: a butter-rich mash of potato, say; or creamed parsnip; a heap of noodles tossed in crème fraîche or some spoonfuls of plain and simple risotto. If you take the boiled potato route keep them floury, then crush them into the cheeky gravy with the tines of your fork.

We also ate a tiny, though massively memorable, dish of rabbit with garlic. I have butched-up the recipe to suit a winter appetite, and introduced some wilted green leaves. The dressing is not thick or rich, but simply the cooking juices enriched with a honey, mustard and cider vinegar.

This week’s recipes are perhaps not for the faint-hearted cook. It is not often this column steps quite so firmly into nose-to-tail territory. But I should mention that the butcher will have done all the pig’s cheek preparation for you so you have nothing but neat, sweet protein to play with, and the rabbit is easy to handle when bought jointed. Neither should frighten the horses.

Braised pig’s cheeks

The accompanying potatoes produce a creamy, almost “wet” mash of a very soft and velvety texture. Serves 4.

olive oil a little
pig’s cheeks 8
carrots 3
onions 2
red onion 1
celery 2
garlic 4
flour 2 tbsp
thyme a generous bunch
orange peel a short piece
bay leaves 3
red wine 1 bottle, rich and bold
sugar or fruit jelly 2 tbsp or so
Warm a thin film of oil in a heavy roasting tin over a moderate heat, then season the cheeks with salt and pepper and brown them lightly in the oil. Remove and set aside.

Cut the carrots into thick slices, peel and roughly chop the onions, cut the celery into short lengths and peel and slice the garlic. Add the carrots, onions, celery, orange peel and garlic to the pan in which you browned the cheeks, letting them soften and colour very lightly. Set the oven at 160C/gas mark 3.

Return the cheeks to the pan, tucking them among the vegetables, scatter over the flour, season with salt and black pepper, cook for a minute or two then add the thyme, the bay leaves and the wine. Bring to the boil, cover loosely with foil or baking parchment, then bake for 2½ to 3 hours until tender. Check occasionally to make sure the liquid isn’t reducing too far. After an hour or so, it might be prudent to taste and add up to two tbsp of sugar, or some apple or other fruit jelly to the gravy.

Taste and correct the seasoning and serve with the potatoes.

To make the mash, add 1kg of floury potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks to boiling, salted water. Cook until they are soft enough to crush. Then drain and mash with 80-100g butter, fluffing the potatoes using a wooden spoon or the flat paddle attachment of a food mixer. Finally, pour in two or three tablespoons of double cream and whip until thoroughly smooth.

Warm rabbit and watercress salad

Country life: warm rabbit and watercress salad. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

Serves 2 as a light main dish
rabbit 1 saddle and 2 legs
butter 40g
olive oil
garlic a whole, large head
apple juice 500ml, unfiltered
cider vinegar 1 tbsp
mild honey 1 tbsp
wholegrain mustard 1 tbsp
young spinach 100g
watercress 100g
Salt the rabbit lightly. Warm the butter and a little oil in a large, heavy sauté pan, then brown the rabbit in it. A relatively even, golden brown is what you are looking for. Break the head of garlic into individual cloves, peel them then add to the rabbit, letting them colour lightly.

Pour over the apple juice and leave the rabbit to cook for 15 minutes, or until you can slice the meat easily from one of the legs. Remove from the pan, leave to rest for 10 minutes then pull the meat from the bones in pieces as large as possible.

Let the rabbity, appley pan juices bubble down to half their volume over a moderate heat, stirring in the cider vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Squash the garlic cloves into the dressing with a fork.

Wash the spinach and watercress, discarding any tough stalks as you go. Return the rabbit momentarily to the pan, add the washed leaves, toss tenderly and immediately divide the rabbit, leaves and dressing between two plates.

Email Nigel at [email protected]

Chipotle Pork Cheek Stew

Home | Recipes | Slow & Low

This beautiful pork cheek stew has taken its place firmly at the top of our favourites list to have come out of the Gran Luchito test kitchen. Our friends over at Market Porter sent us a box of some of their favourite underrated cuts to play with, and we were over the moon to find pork cheeks included in the mix.

If you’ve never cooked with pork cheeks before, we can’t recommend them highly enough. They are perfectly suited to long, slow cooking which unlocks and releases all of their natural marbling and big flavour and that’s exactly what we did with them. We served the pork cheek stew with a really tasty potato, celeriac and parmesan mash.

If cooking low and slow is your thing then you really should really check out our slow cooker pork pibil recipe and if you have the time our chicken mole recipe.

Chef’s tip

If you’ve got a slow cooker, this is a perfect dish to make in it.

  • Prep time

    1 hour

  • Cook time

    5 hour

  • Total time

    6 hour

  • Ideal for

    Dinner

  • Make it

    Mexican

  • Serves

    4-6

How to make it

To Make The Stew

  1. Put the olive oil in a pan over a low–medium heat and fry the onion, red peppers, chipotle paste, cumin seeds and oregano for about 15 minutes until the onion has completely softened. Put to one side.
  2. Mix the flour with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Lightly dust the pork cheeks in the seasoned flour and fry in hot olive oil until browned on all sides. Do this in batches if required, but don’t wash the pan yet.
  4. Add the pork cheeks to the onions with the garlic, chicken stock and mushrooms.
  5. Add the sherry and vinegar to the pan in which you fried pork cheeks and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits that stuck to the bottom as you bring the liquid to the boil for a few minutes. Pour it into the pork cheek mix.
  6. Put the pan over the heat once again, turn up to high and bring to the boil. Turn heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for about 5 hours, or until the pork cheeks fall apart at the slightest touch, stirring occasionally. This is a good time to crack on with the potato and celeriac mash

To Make The Potato and Celeriac Mash

  1. While the stew is cooking, put the potatoes and celeriac in a pan with a little olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have a little colour.
  2. Add the milk and top up with water until the vegetables are completely submerged. Bring to the boil and cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.
  3. Allow to cool slightly, then drain off and reserve the liquid. Put the vegetables in a food processor (you’ll probably have to do this in batches) with butter and Parmesan. Blitz to a purée, adding enough of the reserved liquid to make a lovely smooth consistency.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Make The Broccoli

  1. Add the broccoli spears to a pan of boiling water and cook for 2–3 minutes. You can also give them a few minutes in a hot griddle pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper to add a nice little-charred flavour and colour.
  2. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of Parmesan and a little chopped parsley.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Serve

  1. When ready to serve, remove the pork cheeks from the stew and pull apart into chunks with forks. Mix back into the stew and reheat, stirring through a handful of parsley.
  2. Serve with the potatoes and broccoli.

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Cider-Braised Pork Cheeks

  1. Season both sides of pork cheeks with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour and press it into the meat to coat thoroughly.
  2. Heat clarified butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Sear meat on both sides until richly browned, adjusting heat lower if necessary. When cheeks are browned, reduce heat to medium. Transfer cheeks to a plate to rest.
  3. Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet. Add onions, carrots, and celery to skillet. Cook and stir until softened and sweet, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Add vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Pour in the cider and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Add sage and rosemary. Reduce heat to low and transfer cheeks back to pan. Cover. Cook until fork tender but not falling apart, 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of the pork cheeks. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Bring liquid to a boil over high heat, skimming off fat as it rises to the surface. Reduce volume of liquid by about 60 to 70%. Sauce will start to thicken up. Taste for salt and season as needed. Transfer cheeks back to liquid. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until cheeks are heated through and tender and sauce is thick enough to coat cheeks.

Back to the realms of slow cooking this time with pork. It’s not often I find pork cheeks in the butchers so when I do, I tend to buy whatever they have. Pork cheek lends itself well to long slow cooking at low temperatures as it is a tough piece of meat. The end results are fantastic with sous vide as you get a melt in your mouth tenderness. For those of you who have yet to embrace sous vide I’ve included a method of cooking it in the oven.

Slow cooked pork cheek
You need to start this the day before
For the marinade
2 pork cheeks
100ml red wine
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
Sprig rosemary
Sprig thyme
Place all the above ingredients in a bowl and marinade overnight.
To cook the pork Sous Vide
Set the sous vide to 80 degrees celsius
To prepare the pork, coat in dripping or oil and season
Vacuum pack the pork
Sous vide for 7 hours
To cook the pork in the oven or BBQ
Place the pork cheeks with the marinade ingredients and 100ml of chicken stock in a cast iron pan
Place in the oven for 4 hours at 130 celsius
You can now prepare the sauce
Red wine reduction
100ml red wine (you can use the wine from the marinade)
50ml stock
10g butter
1/2 teaspoon tomato purée
Half a carrot roughly sliced
Half a celery stick roughly sliced
Half an onion
1 garlic clove bruised
Fry off the veg till slightly coloured on the outside
Add the red wine to a pan and reduce by half
Add the tomato purée and stir through
Add the stock and cook through for about 15 mins
The jus should coat the back of a spoon
Strain the jus and place back into a pan
Add the butter to thicken it slightly
If the sauce is still runny you can thicken with cornflour
Season to taste
To finish the pork
Remove from the vacuum packing
At this stage you can either sear it on a hot pan to colour the meat or char grill on a bbq ensure you dry the meat before doing so
Allow the meat to rest before serving
Serve the pork with some creamy mash and your favourite veg