I cooked Mexican beef cheeks at the weekend. With the wet weather keeping me indoors, and with the gift of time during lockdown, I’m cooking things that I haven’t tried making before. I usually visit my local butcher https://farmfreshfoods.com.au once a week, ringing ahead with my order. A marrow bone for the dog is a staple. This week, I bought two, including one for the humans, to make beef stock. Making beef stock is a slow process, but I’m not going anywhere, so why not?
Beef cheeks are an economical cut of meat, but butchers don’t always stock them, so it’s best to order ahead. Being the facial muscle of the cow, used to chewing cud, it’s tough and sinewy, best suited for slow cooking. Ask the butcher to trim this sinew so that you have a clean cheek muscle to cook with. https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/recipes/explainers/what-are-beef-cheeks-2051
Beef cheeks usually weigh between 350 and 450 g each, but they shrink a bit when you cook them. This Mexican beef cheek recipe is quite rich, with chipotle chilli, smoked paprika and cocoa powder. Don’t be put off by the heat of the chipotle, a smoked and dried Jalapeño chilli from Mexico. Its flavour goes a long way in this dish. Substitute with other dried chilli and perhaps increase the amount of smoked paprika if you can’t get chipotle.
I allow for one beef cheek between two people. With all the side dishes, we had enough meat for four people, and leftovers to turn into a pot pie. Serve the beef cheeks with corn tortillas and plenty of condiments – avocado, tomato, corn, lime, coriander leaves and sour cream. I also made a quick red onion pickle with the juice of an orange, sugar and salt.
Are you trying different dishes during lockdown? Here’s another slow-cooked family meal you might like to try:
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Slow-Cooked Mexican Beef Cheeks
- 2 beef cheeks(about 900 g) ask your butcher to trim them for you
- 500 ml beef stock
- 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 red capsicum, washed and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- lime, corainder leaves and corn tortillas, to serve
Beef Cheek Marinade
- 1 whole chipotle chilli I bought mine from Herbie's Spices
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp flaked sea salt
Beef Cheek Marinade
- Begin this recipe a day ahead. Soak the chipotle chilli in 1/2 cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes until soft.
- Put all the marinade ingredients, together with the chilli and its soaking liquid, in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Put the cheeks in a glass or ceramic dish, toss them in the marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The following day, take the cheeks out of the fridge two hours before cooking to allow them to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C.
- Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish. Remove the cheeks from the marinade and sear them over a medium-high heat. Take them out of the dish and set them aside.
- Add the sliced onion, sliced capsicum and reserved marinade and cook over a medium heat until the vegtables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add a little of the stock and rub the bottom of the casserole dish with a wooden spoon to remove any stuck bits.
- Return the cheeks to the casserole dish, add the remaining stock, bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven.
- Cook the cheeks for 4 hours. By this time, the meat will be very soft. Remove the meat, and shred it with a knife and fork before returning to the pot.
- Serve the beef cheeks on warmed corn tortillas with a squeeze of lime juice and coriander leaves.