Mark Hix recipe: Braised pork cheeks with apples and cider
If you can find them, pork cheeks are a great cut of pure meat. What's particularly good about them is that they have natural marbling, so the meat stays moist during slow cooking.
I've used an old-fashioned Parisienne cutter here for the apple garnish, which gives it a good look – and you can get them easily from kitchen supply shops.
500-600g pork cheeks, cut into 4-5cm chunks or left whole
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g flour, plus some for dusting
500ml dry cider
700ml chicken stock
150g piece of streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into 1cm cubes
4 firm dessert apples, peeled
Season and lightly flour the pork cheeks. Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil and fry the cheeks on a high heat for a few minutes, browning them on all sides, then drain on some kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft; add the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute, then gradually add the cider and stock to avoid lumps forming; bring to the boil, add the pork cheeks and bacon, season and simmer gently for about an hour or until the cheeks are tender.
While the cheeks are cooking, scoop balls of apple with your Parisienne cutter and add to the sauce for about 2-3 minutes when the cheeks are almost done, so they still have a bit of bite. Put all of the apple trimmings in a pan with a little water, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat until tender enough to purée and the liquid has evaporated. Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth.
The cider sauce should have reduced and thickened by now; if not, remove the cheeks and simmer the sauce until it's thickened, then return the cheeks.
To serve, spoon the cheeks, sauce and apple scoops on to warmed serving plates or a sharing dish, with the apple sauce served separately or on the plates, whichever you prefer.
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