A Spanish-themed supper club finds James Ramsden bathing pig cheeks in oloroso – a rich and oxidised sherry.
I find pig cheeks fairly irresistible. It’s partly the fact that their size and structure make them perfect for slow cooking – no chopping or trimming off excess fat, just brown whole and cook gently until the collagen breaks down – and it’s partly the fact that, well, they’re dead cheap. But mostly it’s just that they’re utterly delicious, and versatile at that.
Cooked for a couple of hours – as is always necessary – you can shred the meat and mix with herbs and whatever else before forming into patties, coating in breadcrumbs and deep frying. Or break apart the cooked cheeks and fold them through salad leaves, finishing the salad with a poached egg.
For more of a braised affair, the cheeks respond well to whatever you throw at them – beer, wine, cider, or, in this case, sherry. It’s Spanish week at the Secret Larder, you see – I’ve made salmoerjo (of which more next week), broad bean and rosemary puree, poor man’s potatoes, crema catalana…and with any luck Augustin, who owns the wineshop Printers and Stationers where we hold the supper club, has bought in a case or two of sherry.
I’ll be serving this with the aforementioned broad bean and rosemary puree and poor man’s potatoes, as well as a little fried iberico ham and a few pea shoots for colour, texture and, obviously, flavour.
Oloroso-braised pig cheeks
1kg pig cheeks
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 sticks celery, trimmed and sliced at an angle
2 carrots, sliced at an angle
4 cloves of garlic, squashed with the flat of a knife
200ml oloroso or other medium-dry sherry
500ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil (not EV)
Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan and brown the pig cheeks in batches, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer to a large saucepan.
Once you’ve browned the cheeks, add the butter to the frying pan and melt over a medium heat. Throw in the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, before adding to the cheeks.
Pour the oloroso into the frying pan and scrape up any caramelised bits of cheek, then tip this into the saucepan along with the chicken stock and herbs. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 2 hours over a low heat.
If you’d prefer a thicker sauce, remove the cheeks and reduce the liquid until thickened.
Serve the cheeks as you like, ideally with a glass of oloroso.
Inspired? For more creative pork recipes from some of the UK’s finest chefs visit Great British Chefs collection.
Have you ever cooked pork cheeks or even beef cheeks? Let us know how you served them.
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