Monday, April 19, 2010

Beef Cheek Ragu

"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.

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18 comments:

caninecologne said...

wow, that is awesome! i've only had beef cheek 2x (once at urban solace) and loved it. i wonder if you can also put it in a slow cooker with the same results?

Vicki said...

Hi CC - I bet a slow cooker would work perfectly. I've never used one, but it seems to be almost the same principle as 6 hours at 200.

caninecologne said...

thanks vicki. i will have to try making this next time.

doggybloggy said...

I want some beef cheeks!

Vicki said...

Hey doggybloggy - Yes, you do. Just get someone else to clean them up for you.

Bob said...

Oh man, I want a store that carries stuff like that! I bet I'd love beef cheeks, I love the well used muscles. They get the best flavor.

Vicki said...

Hey Bob - Try a Mexican or Asian market, that's where I have the best luck finding "strange" cuts.

tigerfish said...

That is one of the best parts :)
Good idea for a ragu.

Vicki said...

Hi tigerfish - I love off cuts. Unfortunately, sellers are starting to notice that people like them, and are raising the prices.

TasteStopping said...

I'm living vicariously through you on this one. Looks and sounds delicious. A perfect example of how TS and FG fall short. All of your hard work should have been rewarded not just with the awesome dish to consume, but by giving others out there the chance to read about it and learn. Hopefully we'll find some eyeballs for it on TasteStopping. Thanks for sending it in. Love it!

Best,
Casey

Vicki said...

Hey Casey - Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for everything you do for rejected bloggers :)

Masa Assassin said...

Looks great over the pasta I will have to try that. I have only had it wrapped around a warm corn tortilla.

Vicki said...

Hi Masa - I don't know what's wrong with me, I didn't even think about tortillas. Guess I need to make it again!

seelybum said...

I love beef cheeks- if you have a farmers market with a beef stand, you can probably get whatever offal you want- I've gotten cheeks, sweetbreads and marrow bones. Just looking for tripe now.

Vicki said...

Hi seelybum - I've got a couple markets near me that have everything, including trip (which I'm not brave enough to try!).

seelybum said...

ahem i'm afraid to ask what is trip or are you talking about tripe, and in that case I'll talk tomorrow about menudo. my favorite oddball soupa

seelybum said...

Vicki- the best way to try tripe is to go to a good Mexican restaurant on a Saturday or Sunday and order Menudo.
(it's famed for its hangover cure!)
That's how I got addicted.

Vicki said...

Hey seelybum - Yup, I typo'd, meant tripe. My mother-in-law makes the best menudo ever, from scratch, tripe-cleaning and all. Delicious.