Holybelly’s Beef Cheek Stew with Fried Polenta and Salad

Ragoût de Joue de Boeuf à L’Ancienne, Polenta Croustillante, Salade de Petites Feuilles

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

My Paris Market Cookbook

My Paris Market Cookbook

By Emily Dilling

Published 2015

  • About

This hearty recipe was featured on Holybelly chefs Sarah Mouchot and Lise Kvan’s winter 2014 menu. Marinating the beef cheek in wine and seasonings overnight, or for several hours, brings out the delicate flavors of this often-overlooked cut of meat. Fresh seasonal carrots and turnips complement this perfect meal for a cold winter day.

Sarah had these thoughts to share on her recipe: “This beef cheek ragoût is rich, delicious and a ‘cheek’y homage to my dad’s cooking, who, like a good Frenchman, likes to cook things very low and slow with a lot of red wine!

“At Holybelly we like to cook the food that makes us happy and reminisce on the dishes of our childhood. But we also have other goals: generating as little waste as possible, respecting our produce’s origin, and creating dishes that are both delicious and good for you. I like to call this ‘honest cooking.’ This ragoût, made with cheek, is the best for this. Cheek is not a very popular part of the animal and it is such a good feeling to get a tough cut of meat and turn it into melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness! Also, although cheek is considered as offal, it is actually a muscle, which should be considered as a piece of meat. It is a very lean piece at that, since cows spend their entire day chewing grass!

“This ragoût is also a very good way to get rid of your red wine leftovers. I usually pour all of my ‘fonds de bouteille’ into one bottle, and when I get a full bottle, it’s time to get cooking!

“The only secret to this recipe? Time. Cooking time of course (the longer, the better), but also, making this ragoût a day before serving it makes it even more tender and complex. Trust me, it is worth it.”


  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 branches of fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 sprigs of fresh or dried rosemary
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • pound (800 grams) beef cheek
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium turnip or parsnip or beetroot, diced
  • 1 bottle full-bodied red wine (Cotes du Rhone works well)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons (100 grams) tomato paste



Tip from the chef (this step is optional, but will give the dish even more depth): The day before cooking the ragoût (preferably two days before you actually plan on eating it!), place the onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves into a bowl and cover with the beef cheeks. Add the carrots and other vegetables and pour the red wine. Lightly season with salt and pepper and mix in a bit. Cover and place in the fridge. The next day, strain the red wine marinade out of the meat and veggies.

In a pot (preferably cast iron), heat the cooking oil (medium heat) and brown the beef cheek. Remove the meat from the pot and place in a side dish. Re-oil the pan and add in the onion. Slowly sweat the onion and begin to caramelize it lightly. Once the onion starts to color, add in the carrots, turnip, parsnip or beetroot, and garlic. Continue to caramelize all the vegetables together, lightly and on medium-low heat.

Once the vegetables have cooked for about 15 minutes and begin to soften, add in the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste and vegetables for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it does not stick. Deglaze with the red wine and make sure to reincorporate any caramelization that might be at the bottom of the pan. Let cook to reduce wine, about 5–7 minutes.

Add the beef cheeks back into the pot, pour in the stock or water so that everything is submerged in liquid, and give it a good stir. Cover the pot with a lid and slow cook on the stove for 3 to 4 hours on medium-low heat. The beef cheeks are cooked when they are completely tender and melt in your mouth. If not, give them another 30 minutes on the stove.

When the beef cheeks are cooked, turn off the heat and let the ragoût cool down in the liquid, at least 3 hours. Letting the ragoût cool down in the liquid before straining it makes for an even more tender meat.

Strain the cooking liquid from the pot into a smaller saucepan and reduce on high heat to create a jus de boeuf. The jus de boeuf is ready when it has thickened into a sauce and is glossy.

Once you’ve made your Crispy Polenta Squares, heat up the beef cheek ragoût in a saucepan, with a little jus de boeuf and some water if needed. Season to taste.

In another saucepan, heat up the jus de boeuf. Season to taste. When the ragoût is almost done, place the freshly fried polenta onto the plates. Top with the hot beef ragoût. Spoon over some jus de boeuf, and finish with a crisp salad garnish on top to add freshness, crunchiness, and volume to the plate.