Now that the summer is over, I have a lot more time to mess around in the kitchen. (And it’s a lot cooler! Cooking in the summer, especially this summer, leads to unpleasant extra heat in the house.) I’d been chatting with a friend about ox cheeks and how good they are, and I’ve been eating them at one of London’s finest barbeque trucks. So I decided what better way to try to prepare them than to cook them sous vide.
Whenever I decide to cook something new, I always search to see how others have prepared it online. Almost every website said cooked at 82 C for 8-9 hours. Okay that’s fine. However, I’m not always sure why these sous vide recipes call for such high heats. I mean, I could just braise the ox cheek in a nice red wine and some beef stock to create a soft, delicious ox cheek with a ready made gravy. Isn’t the point of sous vide cooking to go “low and slow” and to be able to cook some of these tougher cuts of meat really well and still keep them medium rare? I think so. To be fair, 9 hours is pretty slow and 82 C is pretty low, but it’s not low or slow enough for me. I finally found a recipe that kept the cheeks at 55 C (medium rare) for 3 days. This sounded ideal for me, so I went for it.
Not being sure how hard the meat would be to handle when I was finished, I opted to sear them first, then freeze them for a bit to solidify the juices and make it easier to vacuum seal. Luckily, I was also making braised lamb shanks for Sunday dinner, so I just coated them in flour, salt and pepper and seared them in the same pan to give the shanks a bit more flavor. I also threw a couple of rosemary thyme sprigs into each of the bags. Once they were sealed, and the temperature was right, I popped them in the water bath to bathe away for three days. There was a bit of a worry when we were out on Tuesday night and part of the city lost power (quite close to our house as well), so I was worried that we had lost power and the previous two days had gone to waste, but luckily we were spared from the power cut and the cheeks continued on their three day cook.
When they were done, I took them out. They looked and smelled marvelous. I took the small amount of juices left in the back and reduced them in a pan with a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and Lancashire sauce that we had received recently as a gift from some friends. Apparently there are other shires in the UK that have a sauce besides just Worcestershire. Who knew? I served the sliced (and perfectly medium rare) cheeks on some potato rosti with a bit of the reduction and a side of steamed sugar snap peas.
They tasted divine. They were so soft you could cut them with a butter knife. The sauce added a nice boost, but was really unnecessary as the ox cheek really has an amazing flavor on its own. It’s definitely something I’m keeping in my repertoire as it’s quite easy, as long as I plan ahead. It would also go great with some fondant potatoes or creamy mash as well.