Monday, April 06, 2009
The weather the past two days has been unseasonably warm here in Seattle...it's been a nice respite from the crazy weather we've had this winter. Of course once the sun comes out everyone around here comes out of hibernation and are everywhere trying to soak every bit of sunshine they can get before the clouds move back in. Of course after three days of sun the forecast has cooler than normal temps and rain.
This weekend, more in line with what the weather typically is, we decided to braise some beef cheeks for tacos. At a taco truck you'll probably see it listed as tacos de cabeza, or tacos of head. It might sound a little strange but if someone didn't tell you what it was you would just think it's a neatly trimmed piece of meat that could be from anywhere on the cow.
Looking at them you can see some lines of fat and connective tissue running through the cheeks, making them ideal for braising. Before I get into the nitty gritty of what we did let me just say I love braising for a number of reasons. The first is it allows you to turn a cheap, and often tough, cut of meat into something luxurious and tender. Secondly, it's easy...really easy. You sear off your meat, sweat some aromatics, add your braising liquid, and then throw the whole thing into the oven for a few hours. And finally, you can use the braising liquid as an easy sauce to go with your meal. Since it's what you cooked your meat in you know it's going to go well with it and the meat has added a ton of flavor to it. Now, on to the details.
After trimming off the silver skin and any extra fat the cheeks were seared in a hot dutch oven until they were nice and golden brown.
After that some diced onions went into the pan to sweat, when they became translucent in went the spices. In this case we used chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Also going in were a couple of chipotle peppers with a bit of adobo. The spices and chipotles were allowed to cook a little bit to help develop their flavors. Next went in some chicken stock and beer to act as our braising liquid. This recipe uses less than a can (or bottle) and since you probably had to buy a six pack consider the rest of the beer as your reward for working so hard in the kitchen.
The cheeks were added back to the pot and the braising liquid was brought to a boil. If the liquid isn't covering the cheeks I usually add a bit of water until they are covered.
After the liquid came to a boil the pot was put into a 275 degree oven and braised until they were tender. In our case this happened to be a few hours, but it could be more or less depending on your cheeks. We then pulled them out of the liquid put them in the fridge to chill until the next day.
Before we were ready to eat them, I put the cheeks on a sheetpan and into a 300 degree oven to warm up and also to give us a nice crusty exterior to go with the moist meat inside. Since we were going to be making tacos out of them we shredded them once they came out of the oven and served them on tortillas with radish, cilantro, onion, and lime.
Like with any other braise this was super easy with most of the work being done in the oven. Not only were the cheeks tasty but it also provided endless hours of entertainment with us calling each other beef cheeks.
Posted by PegLeg at 10:21 PM