I had never tried slow-cooking. The thought of throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot and walking away doesn’t appeal to me, but having time on my hands presently, what’s a four hour wait for dinner?
I struggle with vacuum packed meat. Its unearthly aromas are sometimes too much to bear. These beef cheeks sure did unleash a stench so vile, I nearly couldn’t manage. The cheek is the most worked muscle of a cow, as it chews all day long, and this translates into being impossible to cut raw, and hence why it needs to be cooked for serveal hours: to break down all of that connective tissue. I managed to hack one of them to pieces, but I had to abandon this for the others… Things were off to a rocky start.
Being hungry when starting one’s foray into slow-cooking is not an appropriate state to be in. I now understand why most people slow-cook in an automated machine whilst they are at work: so the smell doesn’t drive them crazy. It was worth the effort, but this was a one-off affair, methinks.
The recipe I used is based on Gordon Ramsay’s, from his book Ultimate Home Cooking.
- olive oil, for frying
- 1kg beef cheeks (chopped in chunks if you can, if not, whole is fine)
- 1 onion, roughly diced
- 3 cloves of crushed garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- 400ml red wine (use a shiraz or something full-bodied)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 500ml beef stock
- 500g dried pappardelle
- handful of continental parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper, to season
- In a heavy-based pan, heat a good splash of olive oil. Season the cheeks on both sides and brown all over in the hot pan. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, brown the onion, then add the garlic and bay leaves for around 30 seconds. Careful, as garlic burns very quickly and turns bitter. Do not let this happen.
- Transfer the onions, garlic and bay leaf mix to a heavy-based stock pot, and add the cheeks, wine, tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down somewhat. Let cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 4 hours. (I varied the heat up and down throughout this time, if it began to boil, sometimes I’d turn it down, sometimes I’d leave it for a while). The sauce will reduce by almost half, thickening into a rich gravy.
- Cook the pappardelle in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet. Be warned sometimes the packet lies. This is a thick pasta, and the usual 8-10 minutes is not long enough. Try 15.
- Spoon a ladle-full of the sauce into the bottom of a bowl and then pile in some beef cheek pieces. Fill the bowl with pappardelle and then spoon more sauce and meat over the top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.