Salthouse's slow-cooked pork cheeks
Until a few years ago pork cheeks were a little-known treasure; cook them low and slow and they are heavenly. They were mainly used for brawn (or pig’s head terrine), which is made by cooking the head whole for a long period of time and setting with ancient ingredients like aspic. It was a dish which originated from peasant’s food as it was a cheap source of protein and had a very reasonable yield. There is another traditional way of eating them known as Bath chaps. This is where the cheeks are brined for a couple of days, then slow cooked, cooled, battered and deep fried.
In modern cookery cheeks are generally used as an element of a dish where there are a few different types of pork. We have them on our menu with pork fillet, and occasionally when the weather is cold and you need something hearty and warming, we serve them on their own with a starch and some veg.
The way we’ve had them on of late (and quite possibly my favourite thing to eat when it’s cold) is with some whole grain mustard mash, some sticky red cabbage and some kale.
If the cheeks have not been cleaned by your undoubtedly friendly butcher then they will need some trimming. There is usually a thin bit of skin on the back that needs taking off, sometimes there is a little piece of firmer tissue on the inner piece. Take these both off – neither will braise very well.
For two wholesome filling dishes you will need:
- 500g pork cheeks (these can be sourced from a good quality butcher, to prepare them yourself is not for the faint hearted!)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 carrots, roughly cut
- 4 sticks of celery
- 100mls red wine (not essential)
- 700ml good quality chicken stock (this is essential though!)
- Get yourself a nice thick-bottomed frying pan.
- Make sure its searing hot, add a dash of vegetable oil and carefully place in your cheeks. Season with salt and turn once coloured. When they have an even colouring place these in another deep sauce pan to braise.
- Add your veg to the pan you’ve just used for the cheeks, keep on a high heat and get a good amount of colour.
- Be careful not to add too much salt here, as it will intensify when we make the sticky sauce later. Add the veg to the cheeks.
- Now we’re going to ‘de-glaze’ the pan, the dark colour on the bottom is what adds the colour to the sauce. Pour in your wine and allow it to boil. Once it has all but disappeared add some of the chicken stock and add this to the pan you’re using to braise, along with the rest of the stock
The cheeks will require around 3 hours to cook on a low heat. You’ll know when they’re done as they will almost fall apart. Once you have reached this stage you need to remove them and the veg from the pan, keeping the liquor. Pop this on a high heat, what we want to achieve is a thick and glossy sauce.
As I mentioned – we’ve been serving them with some mash, red cabbage and kale. I won’t tell you how to make mash (for starters everyone’s method is different) and red cabbage is not for everyone.
Simply served with greens, mash and the sticky sauce, pork cheeks will make you a very popular person with whoever you decide to share them with!