Braised Veal Cheeks
Bocadillos and Piperade, San Francisco; Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition (Ten Speed Press, 2009)
Braising makes veal cheeks incredibly tender and flavorful. You can order them from your butcher shop. Serve with poached leeks and radishes on the side.
- 2 1/4 pounds veal cheeks, trimmed and silver skin removed
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 white onion, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 orange with peel intact, thickly sliced
- 1 bouquet garni
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups veal stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
To prepare the veal cheeks, place them in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the wine, celery, carrots, onions, orange, bouquet garni, star anise, and black peppercorns. Toss the ingredients gently to combine, making sure that the meat is coated in the wine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
Remove the veal cheeks from the marinade, pat dry with a paper towel, and set aside. Strain the marinade into a small bowl and reserve along with the solids, setting aside the bouquet garni on its own.
Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the veal cheeks and sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until evenly browned. Remove the cheeks and set aside. Immediately add the solids from the marinade and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until they begin to soften and caramelize.
Return the cheeks to the saucepan. Add the marinating liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the bouquet garni and veal stock; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil once more, then reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan. Gently simmer for 2 hours, or until cheeks are very tender throughout.
Remove the veal cheeks from the saucepan and set aside. Strain the braising liquid into a large sauté pan with straight sides. Discard the leftover solids. Bring the braising liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Skim any visible fat from the surface and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cheeks to the sauté pan and heat just until they are warmed through. Add the butter and swirl the pan in a constant circling motion until it is well incorporated into the sauce. Stir in the sherry vinegar.
To serve, divide the veal cheeks among 4 plates and drizzle with some sauce.