Wednesday, 20 October 2010
How (not) to cook a pig's cheek
I've been meaning to post this for about a month but events have overtaken me. First landing the Guardian wine column which meant a frenzied few days tasting before going away on a long overdue holiday to France. I was going to blog there but managed to get sidetracked by visiting winemakers. I suspect this will be the story of my life for the next few months.
Anyway, pig's cheeks. Or rather pig's cheek. I found one on sale (below) at Source in Bristol for around a fiver I seem to remember and having never cooked one thought I'd give it a go. I was a bit disconcerted to find that one of the recipes I looked up called for more like a dozen cheeks which would have made it about as expensive as fillet steak so decided to give my solitary one the pork and beans treatment following a recipe I'd been given by a friend for hand of pork.
The boys at Source suggested I brined it first which I did but am not convinced it made a huge amount of difference*. The end result was pretty tasty but there was so little lean meat on the cheek that it was more like a pork-flavoured dish of beans. To satisfy the average healthy male appetite I think you'd need at least a cheek per person which really negates the idea of pig cheeks as a cheap cut.
Anyway here, for what it's worth, is what I did but I suggest you make it, like my friend Sue, with hand of pork
Brined pig’s cheek and beans
1 pig's cheek
For the brine
100g granulated sugar
4 juniper berries
1 litre water
For the beans
500g dried butter beans
4 cloves of garlic
2 carrot peeled and cut into chunks
175ml white wine
rosemary and /or thyme
Put the beans in a large bowl of water and soak overnight.
Put the ingredients for the brine in a saucepan and heat gently until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Bring to the boil and cool. Immerse the cheek in the brine for at least a couple of hours.
Pre-cook the beans in a large pan covered generously with clean cold water and boil fast for 20 minutes. Don't add salt. Drain but reserve the liquid.
Preheat oven to Gas 3/160°C (I used the lower oven of the Aga)
Very finely chop the onion, garlic and carrot or blitz in a food processor. Heat a large casserole big enough to take the pig’s cheek, add a couple of tablespoons of oil and cook the finely chopped vegetables until soft.
Add the part-cooked beans and the wine, and pour in 1 litre of the reserved stock from the beans (If you need more stock then make up some chicken stock from a cube and use that)
Add rosemary and/or thyme to taste - if you have sprigs then use these, if not, dried herbs will be fine - and plenty of black pepper.
Place the pork joint on top - with a bit of oil rubbed onto the skin and season with sea or rock salt.
Put the roasting pan in the oven and roast for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. (Mine took more like 6-7 hours) Check every now and then that there is enough liquid in the beans - add more stock/white wine if needed.
At the end of cooking the pork should be deep golden brown with crackling worth fighting over! (Mine didn't get this consistency but the cooking temperature was lower)
Serve straight from the roasting dish in the middle of the table - the pork will be best cut into chunks rather than trying to slice it.
* Not that I'm against brining. I've brined pork chops to very good effect.
Have you ever cooked a pig's cheek/s and if so how did it go?