Braised Pork Cheeks with Three-Onion Ragoût
the girl & the fig/ Sonoma, CA; the fig café & winebar/ Glen Ellen, CA; and ESTATE/ Sonoma, CA
The flavorful ragout in this dish combines the rich, focused flavor of roasted onions with the fresh, pure taste of blanched onions.
Braised Pork Cheeks:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 pounds pork cheeks, silver skin, fat, and cartilage removed
- 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
- 1 leek, white part only, sliced
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cups veal or pork stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 bunches baby mâche
- 3 sweet onions (Walla Walla or Maui), peeled (keep the roots attached) and cut in half lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound cipollini onions, peeled
- 1/2 pound red pearl onions, peeled
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
To make the pork cheeks, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pork cheeks and sear until well caramelized on all sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove from the pot and set aside. Add the celery, carrots, onions, leeks, and garlic and sauté until tender and browned, about 10 minutes. Add the honey and mix well. Return the pork to the pot and stir. Add the red wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Add the stock and return to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and braise until the meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside. Strain the braising liquid into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by a little more than half, about 10 minutes. Skim the fat from the top. Return the pork to the liquid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm over a very low flame.
To make the onion ragoût, raise the oven temperature to 400ºF. Toss the sweet onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the onions face down on a baking sheet and roast until they are soft and browned, about 35 minutes. Reserve.
In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the cipollini onions and sauté until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Move the pan into the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft all the way through. Remove from the oven and reserve.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the red pearl onions and blanch until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain and reserve.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and add the various onions and thyme. Season with salt and pepper; sauté for 5 to 7 minutes.
To serve, divide the onion ragoût evenly among 6 plates and top with braised pork cheeks. Garnish with mâche.