Pigs’ cheeks are certainly an unusual cut of meat, not very often used. You’ll have to know your butcher and ask him to save some for you. What you want is just the meaty part of the cheek. This is a classic recipe for stewing them, but if cheeks are unavailable, replace with large chunks of lean pork. The cheeks are best served with Mashed Potatoes and Glazed Carrots or Spinach with Cream and Garlic.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg (3 lb) pigs’ cheeks, trimmed of all sinews
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50 g (2 oz) plain flour
  • 25 g (1 oz) beef dripping or lard
  • 450 g (1 lb) shallots or onions, sliced
  • 225 g (8 oz) bacon rind, cut into strips
  • 6 garlic cloves, halved
  • A few black peppercorns
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 600 ml (1 pint) Veal jus or bought alternative
  • 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 2 sprigs of fresh sage wrapped and tied in a strip of leek) or bouquet garni sachet

For the Garnish

  • 225 g (8 oz) button onions
  • 100 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) button mushrooms
  • 175 g (6 oz) smoked bacon, rinded and cut into strips

Method

Season the cheeks with salt and pepper and lightly dip in flour. Pre-heat the lard in a frying-pan and fry the cheeks until coloured on both sides. Remove from the pan and place in a large flameproof casserole. Add the sliced shallots or onions to the frying-pan and fry until tender. Transfer the shallots or onions to the casserole using a slotted spoon. Add the bacon rind to the frying-pan and fry for a few minutes then transfer to the casserole. Add the garlic and peppercorns to the frying-pan and pour on the red wine and jus. Bring to the simmer, then pour over the cheeks and add the bouquet garni. Cover and allow to cook gently for about 1½–2 hours until the cheeks are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish. Fry the button onions in the butter until softened and golden brown. Add the mushrooms and bacon strips and continue to fry for a few more minutes. Leave to drain of any excess fat in a sieve or colander.

When the cheeks are tender, remove them from the sauce and strain the sauce through a sieve into a pan. Boil the sauce until reduced to a thicker consistency, skimming once or twice, if necessary, to remove any impurities. Once re-boiled, mix with the cheeks again, add the drained garnishes and re-heat gently before serving.

Duck Variation

This recipe can also be used for duck legs. Allowing one leg per portion, simply remove the skin, separate the thigh from the drumstick and quickly fry in fat. Soak the legs in red wine and chill for a few days to enhance the taste, or cook straightaway as for the cheeks. The legs will take about 2 hours to cook in the liquor, and they eat particularly well with the Spinach with Cream and Garlic

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