Cheek and cheerful

There’s a time and a place for fillet steak – in steak tartare for example; a time for chicken breasts, flattened, breadcrumbed and fried till golden and crisp. There’s a time for a rack of lamb, marinaded in Indian spices and yogurt before being slapped onto a hot griddle; there’s a time, too, for a loin of pork, with crisp, golden crackling.

But the heroes of late and indeed good friends through winter are the cheap cuts; the bits that need some care, some trimming and some long, slow cooking but that give up huge rewards in the taste department.

Pork belly, slow roasted to rend out most of the fat, is rich, decadent, unctuous and fairly cheap. Breast of lamb is another cheap favourite – and one worth investigating – slow braised and then stripped, the meat shaped into patties and fried till crispy. Ham hocks, poached slowly in broth then shredded make an ideal inclusion in a potato cake – the ultimate Saturday morning breakfast with a poached egg.

This weekend was the turn of the ox cheek – a hefty piece of meat, but plentiful and rich with quite a distinct texture. I braised mine for hours and hours with caramelised onions that, by the time the pan came out of the oven, had melted entirely into the sauce. I chose to serve mine in a US style, shredded and stuffed in sourdough rolls with ‘slaw and a vinegary American barbecue sauce but this dish would be equally good served over rice or mash – even a sweet potato variety. I’m looking forward to leftovers used to make a cottage pie – rib-sticking, warming winter fare.

Click here to read my recipe for braised ox cheek

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