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.
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
- Mix the paprika, freshly ground pepper and salt in a bowl, then season the pork cheeks with the mix.
- 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.
- Add the onion to the casserole and fry for approximately 5 minutes until soft.
- 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).
- 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.
- Deglaze with 250 ml of white wine. Let reduce, then repeat this procedure twice using 250 ml of the white wine each time.
- Add the pork cheeks to the sauce and fill up with the meat fond.
- 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.
- 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.
- When the pork cheeks are very soft, carefully take them out of the sauce and set aside.
- Reduce the sauce until it adopt a slightly creamy consistency. Add the butter and season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve on pre-heated dinner dishes and enjoy!