Braised Beef Cheeks (Joues de Boeuf Confites)
At Le Bistrot Paul Bert, chef Thierry Laurent transforms beef cheeks, a humble, relatively tough cut, into a meltingly tender entree by first marinating the beef in a heady mixture of red wine and aromatic herbs and then braising it for four hours in the marinade until the meat becomes supple and fork-tender.
- 4 lb. beef cheeks or beef chuck, trimmed
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 whole clove
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cups beef or veal stock
- 1 calf’s foot (about 1 1⁄2 lbs.)
- 8 oz. button mushrooms, stemmed, halved, and steamed
- 5 oz. bacon, cut into 1⁄4″ cubes and cooked until crispy
- 4 oz. large pasta, preferably conchiglioni or large shells, cooked al dente
- 20 pearl onions, steamed and peeled
- 6 small carrots, steamed
- 2 tbsp. minced ﬂat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- 1 bay leaf
- Put beef cheeks, garlic, thyme, wine, bay leaf, onion, celery, and clove into a bowl; cover and refrigerate 1–2 days. Transfer beef cheeks to a plate, reserving marinade. Pat beef cheeks dry and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef cheeks and cook, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer beef cheeks to a plate.
- Heat oven to 325˚. Add reserved marinade to pot along with beef stock and calf’s foot; boil for 5 minutes. Nestle beef cheeks in liquid and cover them with a sheet of parchment paper cut to ﬁt the inside of the pot. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook, turning beef cheeks every hour, until tender, about 4 hours.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef cheeks to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Skim fat from surface of cooking liquid. Set a ﬁne strainer over a 2-qt. saucepan and strain cooking liquid, discarding solids. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce until liquid has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer beef cheeks to a clean dutch oven. Pour sauce over beef cheeks and add mushrooms, bacon, pasta, onions, and carrots. Cover pot and bake until vegetables and beef are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve hot and garnished with parsley.
Pairing note: a hearty dish such as this calls for a dark, well concentrated wine like the P. Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2007 ($24), with its nose of plum, cherry, and spice. —M.P.