Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce

Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.
Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.

This is one of those no-fail, largely hands-off, wintery main courses, in which the oven does all the work.

In fact, the only real heavy-lifting you’ll have to do is procuring the pork cheeks, which is not an easy find at most supermarkets. Nor is it a necessarily inexpensive one, either.

I lucked out in buying mine from California’s only commercial Iberian pig operation, Encina Farms. What makes Iberian pork so sought after is the fact that the pigs are finished on acorns, giving their meat incredible richness. In fact, in Spain, this is the pork that’s cured into luxurious jamon Iberico.

Encina Farms does sell out of pork cheeks fast, especially since there are only two cheeks per pig, of course. But if you are serious about buying some, fill out its contact form online, and the farm owners will either alert you when the cheeks are available or save some for you.

It is worth that effort to enjoy “Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce.” The recipe by Chichi Wang of the Serious Eats team requires simply braising the pork cheeks in the oven with onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, red wine, and canned tomatoes.

The pork cheeks turn tender and succulent. They’re like the pork equivalent of beef short ribs cooked until a satisfying, fall-apart texture. Serve atop pasta or soft polenta (my pick). It makes for a shelter-in-place taste of pure comfort.

Who needs a knife with pork cheeks as tender as these?
Who needs a knife with pork cheeks as tender as these?

Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce

(Serves 4 to 6)

2 1/2 to 3 pounds pork cheeks

2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1 medium onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

2 cups dry red wine

1 cup chopped canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme

A few tablespoons oil, for browning

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Make sure the pork cheeks are dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan, taking care not to crowd the meat. Cook until the surface is browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, flipping only once or twice so as not to disturb browning. Remove with tongs as cheeks are browned; set aside.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 300°F. Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot. Sauté until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine, tomato, and rosemary. Bring to a simmer. Add the pork cheeks and stir to coat the meat in the sauce.

Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Braise until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Serve with pasta or polenta.

From Chichi Wang at Serious Eats

Another Pork Cheeks Recipe to Enjoy: Pork Cheeks with Polenta, Mustard Cream and Horseradish Gremolata by Suzanne Goin

And: More Info on Encina Farms

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