"Beef what ragu?" That's what my Hubby said when I told him what I was making.
You see, I was out looking for pig tails (don't ask), and I finally found them at Talone's. What an awesome market. (Check out Masa Assassin's post on birria de chivo (goat stew), and a picture of a Talone's advertisement.) If there's any cut of meat you want, chances are they'll have it. Case in point, I purchased a 10 pound bag of beef cheeks, at $3/lb.
I got them home, and started cleaning and trimming. Each cheek (there were 4) took about 20 minutes to turn into something recognizable as meat (you really don't want to know what they looked like right out of the bag). From the initial 10 pounds, I was down to 4 pounds of useful parts. So $3/lb just turned into $7.50/lb. Kind of expensive for an "off cut" - whatever I made better be pretty darn good to justify the price and the amount of work that had already gone into this.
I knew I had to do a slow-braised kind of thing. Think about it - what do cows do all day? They chew. That means this muscle is going to be pretty tough. And indeed it was, my hands were sore for 2 days after sawing through them for an hour and a half.
An internet search (using my favorite recipe finder, Food Blog Search), turned up Beef Cheek Ragu from Just Cook It. The recipe called for a 6 hour braise in a "very low oven", which my Twitter friends told me was anywhere between 150 and 250. (I picked 220.)
After six hours, "the meat should be falling into the sauce", and was it ever. What, in its raw state, would have been difficult for my dogs to chew, now fell apart when I waved a fork over it. Well, I'm exaggerating slightly, but you know what I mean.
I cooked up some kick-ass pasta called trotolle, and topped it with the sauce.
Was it worth it? Hell, yes. Would I do it again? Hell, yes. But next time I'd buy the cheeks already trimmed.