1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 eschalots, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, bruised
1 litre red wine (burgundy or pinot noir)
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1.5 kg beef cheeks, trimmed and connective tissue removed, cut into halves
1½ tbsp vegetable oil
60g unsalted butter, chopped
20g plain flour
Flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional), to serve
8 pearl onions, peeled, root ends intact
Large pinch of caster sugar
30 g unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 × 200g piece speck, cut into 3 cm × 1 cm strips
50 ml vegetable oil
400g button mushrooms, wiped clean
1. Place the onion, eschalot, carrot, garlic, red wine, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and beef in a large bowl and combine well. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
2. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry well with paper towel. Set aside. Strain the marinade through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and set aside; reserve the vegetables and herbs.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a large enamelled cast-iron casserole over medium–high heat. When the butter begins to foam, cook the meat in batches, seasoning with salt as you go, for 8–10 minutes or until golden all over. Remove from the pan, reduce the heat to low, then add the reserved vegetables and herbs and stir for 6–8 minutes or until light golden. Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle over the flour and stir for 1 minute. Add the reserved marinade, scraping the base of the pan to remove any cooked-on bits, and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 2–3 hours or until the beef is tender, regularly skimming the surface of any impurities. (The cooking time depends on the quality of the meat.)
4. Meanwhile, to make the garnish, place the onions, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Add enough water to come halfway up the side of the onions, then cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes or until all the water has evaporated and the onions are tender and lightly coloured. Set aside. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the speck for 6–7 minutes or until golden, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the oil to the pan and, when hot, add the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss for 5–6 minutes or until golden and tender.
5. Drain the meat and vegetables in a colander placed over a large bowl to catch the sauce, then strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. Discard the herbs in the colander. Add the meat, glazed onions, speck and mushrooms to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Check the seasoning, add the flat-leaf parsley, if desired, and serve.
I love to use beef cheek in this classic dish as this gorgeous, rich cut is just perfect for braising. You’ll need to start this dish the day before you wish to serve it as the meat marinates overnight. Splash out and buy a good-quality red wine to use here – a cheap ‘cooking’ wine changes the flavour completely and the dish truly suffers. Just make sure you buy an extra bottle to drink with it!
Photo Credits: Chris Chen