When the weather warms up, rich, meaty dishes are best reserved for showing off. At this time of year, we bring out the big guns a bit more sparingly, reserving their luxuries for Sunday lunches and special occasions.
Such is the case with Hell of the North chef Simon Martensz’s braised beef cheeks. You could make this a winter staple (and you definitely should), but don’t underestimate this rich, luxurious braise when it comes to spring and summer celebrations.
Braised in wine and paired with wine
For Martensz, a safe place to start is a wine you know and trust. “I’m always going to try the wine first, and try to get a flavor profile…then try to do something that matches or pairs with that,” he says. In this case, Martensz starts with a fragrant Riddoch Coonawarra Elgin’s Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon and selects a few flavors. “With a cab sauv, you get black pepper, bay leaf, thyme – those rich autumn flavors. Anything braised in red wine will do just fine.
Braised beef cheeks
To start, you will need to find good quality beef cheeks. “Go to your local butcher or a butcher you can trust in the market and talk to them,” says Martensz. “Ideally you want them already trimmed, so have your butcher remove all the fat and tendons.”
Before you start cooking, you will need to marinate your beef cheeks in a mixture of port and red wine, with some herbs and some crushed juniper berries. To really let those flavors absorb, it’s best to let it sit overnight if you can.
“The next day, take out the beef cheeks and put this red wine mixture over medium heat and let it simmer for about half,” says Martensz. Sweat a mixture of carrot, onion and celery, season the beef cheeks and brown them well in a baking dish. “You want a really good caramelization on the cheeks,” says Martensz. “Then put that on your sweaty veggies. Filter the reduced wine and top up with about two liters of beef stock.
Bring everything to a boil, then it’s soft and slow in the oven at 150 degrees. After two hours, check the beef. “You want to be able to push a skewer in without any kind of resistance,” says Martensz. Once the beef cheeks are completely tender, let them rest. “If you immediately take them out of this liquor, it’s almost as if they dry out a bit. I know it sounds weird, but it’s like you’re letting the meat rest.
After about 20 minutes, remove the beef cheeks, strain the braising liquid and reduce it to a simmer. “You want to cut it down about three quarters and it will be sticky and thick,” says Martensz. “Then you whip in a few knobs of butter – it just gives a nice richness and shine to the sauce.”
There’s not much more to mashed potatoes than regular mashed potatoes – it’s just a smoother version. Start your potatoes in cold, heavily seasoned water. “Bake them until super soft — about 20 to 25 minutes,” says Martensz. Once you’ve given them a minute to air dry, puree the apple, if you can. Martensz recommends mashing or mashering the potatoes, but if you don’t have any on hand, a potato masher or classic fork will do – it’ll just be a little more rustic.
“Then heat up the milk, cream and butter and mix them into the mash,” says Martensz. “If you have a drum sieve, it’s a good idea to push it in after you put in the milk and cream mixture.”
To serve, dress the mash, then place the beef cheeks on top. Drizzle with reduced sauce and garnish with fresh parsley.
Recipe: wine-braised beef cheeks with mashed apples
Preparation time: 1 hour (plus 12 hours of marinade)
Cooking time: 2-3.5 hours
4 beef cheeks
500ml red wine (could use Riddoch Coonawarra Elgin’s Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon)
6 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
3 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2L of beef broth
500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
100ml double cream
150g unsalted butter
Parsley for garnish, chopped
Place the beef cheeks in a large bowl with the wine, port, thyme, black pepper, juniper berries and bay leaves and marinate in the fridge for 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150℃. Remove the beef cheeks from the marinade, season them with salt and pepper and brown them in an ovenproof skillet for 3 minutes on each side. Remove and reserve. In another saucepan, boil the marinade until reduced by half.
Cook the garlic, onion, carrots and celery in the same skillet as the beef cheeks for 10 minutes over medium heat or until tender. Reintroduce the beef cheeks, add the broth and the reduced marinade. Bring to the boil then cover and cook in the oven for 2h30.
To make mashed potatoes, boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until cooked. Strain, then pass through a grinder (or use a potato masher). Add the cream, milk and butter then season to taste.
Remove the beef cheeks from the oven, strain the cooking juices and reduce to medium heat for 20 minutes.
Serve cheeks and vegetables over apple puree, wine reduction and garnish with parsley. Serve with a glass of Riddoch Coonawarra Elgin’s Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Riddoch Coonawarra. You can find Riddoch at BWS and Dan Murphy.