I hear you saying - well what exactly are Beef Cheeks - which end do they belong at? I know I had the same question myself. The butcher assured me that they are from the top end - and that they really are the cheeks of the beef!!
I have seen several recipes using this cut of meat, but having never actually seen the cut on display, I have not attempted to make any of the recipes. Anyway, I decided it was time to do some investigating and try and find these beef cheeks, and give it a go. After asking at several butcher shops I finally found one that was able to order some in for me. It seems they are now in quite hot demand as they have been "showcased" on MasterChef, and there is a recipe in the 2nd edition of their magazine for a Spanish styled dish. So Dear Reader if you intend to make this recipe, plan ahead, you may have to order the beef cheeks at least 24 hours in advance. If you are unable to get the beef cheeks, you can substitute large pieces of chuck steak.
Now there is a quite long list of ingredients - don't be scared - it is really a simple dish to make. All you have to do is chop up the ingredients and bung them all into either the crock pot, or a casserole dish, then walk away for many hours!!
Thai Style Braised Beef Cheeks
6 x beef cheeks
1/3 cup plain flour
3 onions, sliced
4cm piece of galangal, sliced
1 lemongrass (pale part only), sliced
4cm pice fresh ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup grated palm sugar (you can also use brown sugar)
3 cloves crushed garlic
3 kaffir lime leaves (this means 3 of the double leaves, or if not joined 6 leaves)
2 long red chillies, seeds removed, chopped (use your discretion - I only used 1 as I didn't want it too hot)
1/3 cup tamarind puree
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup fish sauce
Coat the beef in flour, shake off the excess. Heat a small amount of oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. In batches brown the beef for 1-2 minutes each side.
Place all the ingredients into either a flamproof casserole dish, or the crock pot. Combine well. If you are cooking in the crock pot, cook on low for 7-8 hours. If in a casserole dish, put into an oven that has been pre heated to 170 degrees C, for approximately 3 - 1/2 hours. If cooking in the oven increase the liquid by adding 4 cups of water to the mixture.
When the beef is cooked, remove from the cooking liquid, and set aside, keeping warm.
Strain the cooking liquid, to remove all the herbs etc. put the liquid into a saucepan, and reduce over a medium high heat until the the liquid has reduced (approximately 15-20 minutes). At this time you may like to thicken further by adding 1 tablespoon of cornflour that has been mixed with a small amount of water. Stir constantly. Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and stir to dissolve.
Serve the beef on top of steamed jasmine rice, and garnished with fresh herbs such as thai basil and coriander, also top with some chopped up chilli. Serve the "gravy" on the side.
So what was the verdict on the beef cheeks? Well I am still undecided. Some of the pieces of beef were really quite tender and literally fell apart, while others were a little chewy. Now I am not sure if this is because a) my crock pot is on its way out and some didn't cook as well as others, or b) simply because like with other cuts of meat you just get come that are chewy! I personally found the "chewy" ones "not to my liking!" I think I will have to make another beef cheek dish before I can truly give this cut of meat the "thumbs up".