Braised Pork Cheeks in White Wine Sauce with Spaetzle and Brussel Sprouts

This is the main course of my Christmas dinner of last year. The plan was to make it a cooking-intensive Christmas as this is, after all, what a food-obsessed person like me enjoys most, and so the idea was to pick a number of dishes that would not hit the table too quickly. And it worked out to perfection – actually, almost rather too perfectly. The cooking started around 5 pm and it actually was 10.30 pm when the first course was ready to be served. It was delicious – and I was exhausted. Happy, of course, but really exhausted. Start a bit earlier if your idea of a good time to have a meal is more like 7ish. And here is the good news if your idea of an enjoyable Christmas does not at all include spending the entire evening in the kitchen: The pork cheeks can be prepared in advance, they are equally delicious if you eat them one day later.

I did take a short-cut with the spaetzle and bought a packet of fresh pre-made spaetzle from the supermarket. So here is an idea for next Christmas… 😉

I will post the whole menu a little later on this blog.

Sanni

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Ingredients (serves 4):

For the pork cheeks:

  • 12 Iberian Duroc pork cheeks
  • 250 grams of carrots, diced
  • 250 grams of celeriac, diced
  • 250 grams of leek, cut into slices
  • 100 grams of yellow onion, finely chopped
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of mild paprika
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 bottle of cooking white wine (use a crisp, dry, unoaked wine, e.g. Pino Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 liter of meat fond
  • 25 grams of butter
  • Fresh herbs for the bouquet garni as follows: oregano, thyme, parsely, lovage, bay leaf

For the sides:

  • 300 – 500 grams of Brussel sprouts
  • 300 – 500 grams of fresh spaetzle
  • 20 grams of butter
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

  1. Mix the paprika, freshly ground pepper and salt in a bowl, then season the pork cheeks with the mix.
  2. Heat up the olive oil in a large casserole on medium to high heat and briefly sauté the pork cheeks on both sides until brown. Then remove from the casserole and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the casserole and fry for approximately 5 minutes until soft. 
  4. Add 2/3 of the carrot dices and 2/3 of the celeriac dices and roast until slightly brown (keep stirring, reduce temperature if the mixture gets too brown too quickly). 
  5. Add the tomato paste and keep roasting for another 3 to 5 minutes. Then add 2/3 of the leek and roast for 3 to 5 minutes as well.
  6. Deglaze with 250 ml of white wine. Let reduce, then repeat this procedure twice using 250 ml of the white wine each time.
  7. Add the pork cheeks to the sauce and fill up with the meat fond.
  8. Add the bouqet garni (make the bouquet garni by bundling the herbs with a piece of kitchen string), and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  9. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low to medium, cover and let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. If required, add some meat fond.
  10. When the pork cheeks are very soft, carefully take them out of the sauce and set aside.
  11. Reduce the sauce until it adopt a slightly creamy consistency. Add the butter and season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
  12. Pass the sauce through a sieve and fill it into the casserole again. Add the pork cheeks and the remaining vegetable dices. Let simmer until the vegetables soften.
  13. In the meantime, prepare the spaetzle and the Brussel sprouts: Boil the Brussel sprouts in slightly salted water for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. Sauté briefly in a pan with the melted butter. Season with nutmeg. Prepare the spaetzli either in a frying pan with some butter and some salt added, or in boiling water according to instructions. Garnish with chopped parsley.
  14. Serve on pre-heated dinner dishes and enjoy!
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