Personally I have always felt strongly that there is something offally awful about offal and I am more than happy to steer clear of eating animals innards. Not a nose to tail enthusiast really. All those gristly tubes, wobbly pinky bits, organy type tasting stuff looking like dog food makes my stomach just flip over itself in panic and revulsion.
But then again, offal has been consumed and enjoyed across ages and
continents, though it is often hidden by the rich variety of terms like foie gras and sweetbread that have evolved to veil it’s origins. Well done guys, I am a closet foie gras fan.
From Pork Blood Soup to Goats Testicle Satay, aptly named Torpedo, it seems that my squeamishness should really be unwarranted. Initially a poor mans food, fashionable, ambitious chefs in recent times have
put offal back in vogue, declaring themselves f*#king cavemen with a mission to bring back the dead – and on to our plates.
Interestingly enough though, American researcher, Paul Rozin has a theory, which is, that what most disgusts us in Western society are things to do with basic bodily functions. That sounds a bit odd, most of my friends are highly amused by them. Anyway, Rozin concludes that we are disgusted by these things because they remind us of our own animality, and closely related, our mortality.
Our avoidance of brain, liver or kidneys can be traced to our own fear of death. Interesting. It might be just be down to an unsophisticated palate, fear of a foodie adventure or the thought of it all freaks people out. I suspect for me, it is the later. My heart just isn’t in it, but, not for lung.
Beef cheeks, isn’t there something vaguely revolting about dining on the
facial flesh of animals and fish? Technically offal, beef cheeks are definitely like tripe, pigs snout, head cheese, and, for goodness sake, scrotums? Whilst a self confessed culinary coward as far as eating entrails, I can and do put my big girls pants on and get over the gag factor when it comes to devouring beef cheeks.
A serious hunk of muscle, the cheek is working almost constantly chewing cud, so it’s tough, but all that connective tissue transforms into melting, meaty heaven when it’s cooked low and slow. Funny,I can think of a few Captains cheek’s that would qualify for a veritable feast.
Carrillada in Spanish, beef cheeks are high in protein and low in both fats and calories. Tender, robust and sublime, this recipe for beef cheeks will give you a shouting-from-the-rooftops-life-changing experience.
Trust me dear Islanders, patience is the key to delicious innards and these will completely steal the show.
Check out this cheeky little number…..
Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks in Red Wine
3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1.5kg beef cheeks (4 large or 6 small)
1 cup of onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 large carrot, roughly diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 stems fresh garlic or 1 and a half teaspoons dried
4 bay leaves
1 cup good quality beef stock
2 cups red wine (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 teaspoons salt, separated
freshly ground black pepper
Cut off any large, fatty membrane. Pat the cheeks dry and then season with 1 tablespoon of salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large, heavy based pan or casserole dish over a high heat. Sear the beef cheeks on each side until nicely browned. Pop onto a dish and cover with foil.
Turn down the heat to medium high and heat the remaining olive oil. Add
garlic, onion and carrot, saute for a few minutes until the onion becomes
translucent, then add the celery. Pour the wine into the pot and bring to
simmer. Make sure you scrape the lovely brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining ingredients. Put the lid on and pop into a preheated oven (160C) for 3 to 3 and a half hours until tender. Turn a few times while cooking.
Carefully remove the cheeks and discard the thyme and bay leaves. Using a stick blender puree the stock into a smooth sauce. Then bring the sauce to a simmer over a medium heat and simmer reducing to about 1/4 until you have the consistency of gravy – about 3 to 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and return the beef cheeks to the sauce, cover and keep warm.
Pair this golden little gem with some creamy mashed potatoes or even sweet potato mash and garnish with chives.
Go on, you have my permission to call yourself a superstar.!!
Cod cheeks in comparison are a different kettle of fish……..think scallops
without the price tag. These cheeky little nuggets of heaven, try Cod,
Monkfish and Skate. I’ve seen them in the market and in El Corte Ingles
Fling them in a hot pan letting them sizzle until caramelised on the outside yet sweet and juicy in the centre. An elegant starter for all your guests.
Cod Cheeks in a Lemon Dill Beurre Blanc
1 tablespoon shallots
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
salt and pepper
6 – 8 cod cheeks
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon fresh dill
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
First prepare the beurre blanc, finely chop the shallots and cut the butter into tablespoon size pieces. In a small saucepan over medium heat add the shallots, lemon juice and wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about two thirds, until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Now, turn the heat to the lowest setting and whisk the cold butter in one piece at a time to slowly form the emulsion.
Once all of the butter is incorporated, season with salt and pepper. Don’t
forget to monitor the sauce whilst keeping it warm, whisk it often to prevent it from splitting.
In a non stick frying pan melt the butter and oil over a medium heat. Season the cheeks with salt and pepper. Chuck the cheeks into the pan and cook about 1 to 2 minutes each side.
Chop the dill and whisk into the beurre blanc. Serve cheeks on a warmed plate and drizzle the sauce over.
You won’t find beef cheeks in the fridge in Mercadona but if you venture to a quality butcher or at any of the local markets you will be able to find them.
Simon Jones at Meat and Fish Society (firstname.lastname@example.org) phone number 619 593 387 will be happy to source all.
Get down and get primeval, just don’t ask me to…
Galley Goddess xx