For the sake of these beef cheeks with mushrooms, I just spent hours picking some fellow bloggers’ brains, about how to rename beef cheeks. The name bothers me no end. When I say cheeks, I imagine something inviting, rosy and kissable. But to a cow? Beef Cheeks? It ain’t happening!
Now that we had this little talk, let me tell you this: Beef cheeks are absolutely delicious, succulent and gelatinous, and form a rich and velvety sauce, all at a reduced price and reduced labor. Because it is so flavorful, I did not take any steps other than, all aboard at the last hour of cooking. The beef cheeks cook all by themselves in water for the first two hours, and that’s when I proceed with making the dish proper. I made this dish, a sort of undemanding and low maintenance cousin of Bourguignon, my own expat version of it, for Rosh Hashanah, determined NOT to say the dreaded word “beef cheeks” when asked, terrified that all bets would be off. So I decided to wait until the whole platter was licked clean to spill the beans!
PS: Beef cheeks are quite homely. Forget the name, forget the look, and keep going: you are in for a treat!
- 4 pounds beef cheeks, left whole (you will get about 5-6 cheeks total), rinsed thoroughly several times to rid them of their excess salt
- 10 cups (21/2 quarts) water
- 2 pounds portobello mushrooms, diced
- 2 bags frozen tiny onions (cute, and no peeling. Settle for 2 large diced onions)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups dry red wine (liquor stores)
- 1/4 cup creme de Cassis (liquor stores)
- 5-6 sprigs thyme (throw it all in. Fish it out at the end of cooking)
- 1 sprig rosemary, leaves only
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 good pinches saffron
Emphasizing: Be sure NOT to add any salt anywhere in the dish
Bring the beef to boil with the water in a large wide bottom pot. Reduce the flame to medium, and cook covered, 2 hours. add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil again. Reduce to medium, and cook covered one more hour (total cooking time: 3 hours)
Transfer the meat and vegetables to a platter with a slotted spoon. Check the liquid in the pot. If it is too thin, turn the flame on high, and reduce it, just a few minutes, until it gets to the consistency of maple syrup. Pour this sauce evenly over the whole dish. Break up the cheeks neatly in half. Serve hot, using the gravy all up, with rice, mashed potatoes or other white vegetable puree, or boiled noodles.