August 12, 2013
Balinese Braised Beef Cheeks
This is a Beef Cheek
It's not the prettiest cut of meat, but it sure is one of the tastiest and usually great value too- this one cost me about $4, and it will feed my whole family cooked like this with some rice
As you might have guessed, it comes from the cheek of a cow. Being working muscles, they need lots of long, slow cooking to break down all the connective tissue and it also means that they become meltingly tender and delicious when cooked juuuust right.
The best way to cook them is to braise the cheeks with plenty of liquid like red wine or stock, or even my way with coconut milk. I don't know if Beef Cheeks are really a Balinese speciality, but I used all the same flavour profiles that I usually do and I think I definitely came up with a winner here indeed!
Balinese Braised Beef Cheeks
this should make about 8 big serves
2 nice big Beef Cheeks
2 stalks of Lemongrass
4 Garlic cloves
3 long red Chilli
5cm piece of Ginger
2 tab Sugar
1 piece/tab Belachan (Shrimp Paste)
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
half bunch of Coriander
2 cans Coconut Milk or Cream
Mix all the lovely fresh herbs up together, except the lime leaves- doesn't that smell amazing!
Now you have some choice here, you could pound them in a mortar and pestle, mince them or blitz them all up in a food processor. Pounding really breaks down the fibres well and lets all the flavours mingle properly with each other. Mincing is pretty good too as it crushes everything up, but the fibres are coarser. Blitzing is really the last choice because each component is chopped up and really remains in tiny little separate bits instead of cosying up to everything else all nice and neighbourly. Blitzing is fine if you're in a hurry, but it's best if you can leave the meat in the paste for a while so the flavours really get in there
Now this is stinky stuff indeed!
Salted, dried, pounded then fermented, the shrimp paste is essential in so many SE Asian dishes, and gives a real depth of flavour that can't be matched
It needs to be toasted before using though- so turn on the fan, open the windows, and hold your breath!
I just cook off the raw taste by toasting it off in a pan for a few minutes until it dries out and goes crumbly, but you can wrap it in foil and bake it for about 10 minutes instead if you like
Mix the shrimp paste and sugar with the minced herbs and mix it all together well
Pat the mixture all over the beef cheeks, coating both sides nice and thickly. You can leave them to marinate for a couple of hours now if you like, but it's fine to start cooking it straight away if you just can't wait
Pour one can of coconut cream into the base of the pan. Then pop the cheeks in too. You want one with a lid and that holds the cheeks nice and snugly so all the juices and moisture can't escape, I stacked the meat on top of each other with plenty of paste in between them. Place the kaffir lime leaves around them for extra flavour
Carefully pour the extra cream over the top, but don't wash off the wet paste
Bake in a slow oven at 160*C for about 4 hours, or until the meat is so soft you can cut it with a spoon. The connective tissue has broken down totally now and there won't be any resistance
There's no point trying to carve the meat as it will just fall apart, so you can either pull off big chunks, or just pull it apart with a fork and spoon like I did into little pieces
Mix the meat back through the sauces so you don't miss a drop of deliciousness
Serve simply with some rice and a splash of lime juice just to wake up all the flavours and freshen it up a little
Warm, spicy, fragrant, rich and delicious. A little of this meal really goes a long way and I promise the flavours develop and get even nicer if you leave it a day or two- but that's rare indeed at my house!
So Dear Readers, have you tried Beef Cheeks and do you often cook with secondary cuts of meat?