The Celebration of the Pigs Cheeks
Ever thought of eating pigs cheeks? If the thought ‘oh no not for me’ enters your mind then I advise you to think again. Once we cooked this dish, Ross’s comments were ‘if I ever to find this recipe on a pub menu I will be the happiest punter in the world.’ This dish is lip smacking delicious, the rich stickiness of the natural gelatine in the cheeks makes the sauce sticky and almost gluey in texture. I love the solid lumps of meat with no bones or tough sinew, they are an almighty brilliant find.
Bath chaps is a perfect example of British regional cookery which disappeared when eating the whole pig fell out of fashion. Many chefs, butchers and food fanatics are working very hard to bring all these past delicacies back to our table. I feel that one should not necessarily have to go to a restaurant to enjoy this marvelous, delicious cut of meat so do have a go at cooking it at home.
I have cooked the pigs cheeks in the water bath and then finished them in a casserole dish on the cooker. I love water bath cooking or sous vide cookery as it’s also known. The reason is firstly that it requires the minimal amount of attention with maximum results and secondly I can cook tough forgotten cuts of meat with very little effort.
We live busy lives and previously found cooking a full meal after a long day just a little bit too much. Once we invested in the Clifton water bath we have been eating like royalty everyday of the week. We prepare our meals over the weekend, cooking inexpensive cuts of meat in the water bath and then cooling it correctly in ice water. So when required, the maximum cooking time to finish the dish off is 30 minutes. We eat well and it does not cost the earth. So for us to eat well it’s not just about fillet of beef and lobster but pigs cheeks and oxtail! If you do like the look of this dish and you do not have a water bath I have included the braising method as well, just remember that if the dish cooks at a low temperature and slowly the meat will remain moist and succulent.
- 450g pigs cheeks (about 8 small cheeks or 6 large ones)
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 30g extra virgin olive oil
- 5g salt
- 1L chicken stock (only needed for the conventional cooking method)
Water Bath Method:
Preheat the water bath to 80°C.
Remove any remaining cartilage and fat from the cheeks. Wash them under cold running water.
Pat the cheeks dry with kitchen paper and place the dry cheeks and the rest of the ingredients apart from the chicken stock in a vacuum pouch. Remember to wear clean disposable gloves at all times. Seal with hard vacuum.
Place the sealed bag in the preheated water bath and cook the cheeks for 8 hours.
Once cooked, retain the cheeks in the bag and cool in ice water. Do not open the bag until needed.
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Heat a medium oven proof casserole dish with the oil, brown the cheeks and add the garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, salt and chicken stock.
Bring the cheeks to a simmer, place a lid on the casserole dish and place the dish in the preheated oven.
Cook for 2 hours in the oven.
To finish the dish:
- 250g small new potatoes
- 250g small baby onions, peeled
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g pancetta
- 100g chestnut mushrooms
- 25ml balsamic vinegar
- 100ml dry white wine
- 200ml chicken stock or veal stock (if you cooked the cheeks in the water bath)
- 1tbs freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash the new potatoes and cook them in salted water, once cooked drain and cut them in half if they are small or in 1/4 ‘s if they are larger.
Peel the baby onions, cut the chestnut mushrooms in ¼ ‘s and dice the pancetta.
Heat a medium size casserole dish with the butter, once the butter has melted and start to brown add the pancetta, mushrooms and the onions; sauté unlit golden brown.
Add the balsamic vinegar and the white wine to deglaze and cook for a few minutes until the wine reduced and become sticky.
Open the vacuum bag; add the cooked cheeks and liquid from the bag to the casserole dish along with the 200ml stock.
If you braised the cheeks, do not add extra stock use 300ml of the cooking liquid along with the cheeks.
Bring to a gentle simmer and cover the dish with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes to ensure that the cheeks are piping hot and the onions are cooked. I like to reduce the liquid to a shiny and sticky consistency.
Adjust the seasoning if needed, add the cooked new potatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes to heat the potatoes through.
Stir in the chopped parsley and enjoy.
Make 2 – 3 generous portions or 4 smaller portions.