This is a post for my carnivores. True carnivores. The kind that will go that extra mile to attain a cut of meat you won’t see at the grocery store. The kind of carnivores that will do a little leg work to wrap their chops on pork cheeks. Because I know that rare is the butcher who keeps pig cheeks in stock. But this blog has never just been about the everyday kind of thing. Sometimes I like to make your work a little bit harder. Slow-braised pork cheeks are one of the most delicious things you can make. But whatever you do, don’t try to rush. Slow-braised is the way to go at it.
It’s no secret what pork cheeks are. They’re exactly what their name implies. The bit of meat in the hollow of the cheek, underneath the eye socket, and above the mandible. Whereas, guanciale, the famed Italian bacon, is made from the jowls of the pig – just so you get the distinction. The real secret is how cheap cheeks are! Even at the fancy butcher shop where the celebrities (and I sometimes) shop. Why buy ground beef when slow-braised pork cheeks go for about the same price?
Slow-braised pork cheeks become meltingly tender, with a rich, deep flavor. Cook them for a long time, and the meat breaks down into neat, hockey-puck-sized nuggets of forkable flesh. Pork cheeks will be great slow-braised any which way you like. But I chose juniper and ginger beer. The sweet and spicy sauce, that makes itself in the pot, can be spooned over mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles. But I chose grits.
So make some calls. Do some prodding. They may be an often-overlooked cut, but pork cheeks are where it’s at. GREG