Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Most Amazing Pork Cheek Ragu

The Most Amazing Pork Cheek Ragu

It was not my intention to be absent for so long, but as always, one thing led to another, and its been  several months A YEAR (!) before I found enough time to post again.  That's not to say I've been neglecting the culinary arts.  Oh no! I've been beavering away in my new kitchen (we moved home) and trying out some new (and pretty damn good) recipes.

I had a little think about what recipe I'd like to share with you first, and it has to be the Pork Cheek Ragu.  It is, quite possibly the most delicious thing I've ever tasted.  As I've said before, pork is, sadly, a bit of an underrated meat, especially when it comes to the wobbly, hard-to-cook-well bits.
Pork Cheek is one of the most ignored cuts from Mr Piggy.   Technically the cheek is offal as it (obviously) comes from the head of the pig, but before you run screaming for the hills, I am a total offal-phobe, and yet this is one of my favourite dishes.
Please don't be put off by the idea of pork cheeks -  they're quite harmless, and, perhaps most importantly, they don't look too weird and offal-ly

When cooked well, pork cheeks are something truly special.

The recipe below feeds two to three people.  However, because it does take a fair while to prepare (two days) and cook, it it well worth making double or triple quantities and then freezing what you don't need for later.

P.S Sorry there's no photos, the camera lead that connects to the computer has gone AWOL. Just use your imagination...

Serves 2-3

For the Pork Cheek Marinade:
Small glass of Chianti (About 125 ml)
5 Pork Cheeks - Trimmed.  The cheeks are mottled with wonderful, flavourful fat, so don't try to remove that - just tidy them up.
Couple Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
10 Whole Black Peppercorns
One or Two good pinches of Fennel Seeds

For the Ragu:
Tablespoon or two of Olive Oil
1 Medium Red onion finely diced
1 Large (or two medium) stick(s) of Celery, finely diced
1 Large (or two medium) carrot(s), finely diced
3 Garlic cloves finely diced.
Small sprig of Rosemary
5 Large/Medium Ripe Vine Tomatoes (or any nice variety)
1 Bay Leaf
Sprigs of Thyme
Salt and Pepper

  1. In a suitable container or zip-loc bag, combine the ingredients for the marinade and add in the trimmed pork cheeks.  Coat the cheeks, and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.  
  2. The next day when you're ready to cook the Ragu, take the cheeks out of the fridge, and drain and reserve the wine marinade.  Pick off any black peppercorns that have stuck to the pork, but leave on any fennel seeds or thyme sprigs.  Discard the peppercorns and excess thyme.
  3. Over a medium high heat, fry the pork cheeks in a little Olive Oil, until brown.  This should take a few minutes on each side.  
  4. Remove the cheeks from the pan.  If necessary add a bit more Olive Oil, and gently fry the celery, onion, carrot and garlic.  Don't let the vegetables colour too much.  
  5. Return the pork cheeks and add the sprig of Rosemary.  Cook on a medium heat for a further few minutes.
  6. Add in the reserved wine marinade and let it bubble for a few minutes.  
  7. Add in the chopped vine tomatoes, the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and pinch of freshly ground pepper (leave the salt until nearer the end of cooking). 
  8. Give it all a good stir, and turn down the heat to its lowest, and let the cheeks gently cook for about   2-3 hours until the cheeks break apart with a spoon. Every so often give the cheeks a stir and if necessary add a bit of water, it it looks like the sauce may be drying. 
  9. One the pork is totally, meltingly tender, use forks to shred the cheeks.  Taste and season the Ragu.  You can serve it now - or leave it to cool, and place in the fridge overnight, and then re-heat it the following day. The time it spends in the fridge develops the flavours and makes it so much better.  
  10. Serve with pasta and parmesan. 

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