Join me in my back yard, right in front of my wood fired oven, as I cook up this gorgeous family favourite - Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Smoked Pulled Pork and Red Wine.
This delicious slow cooked meal is easy and fun to prepare. I also talk about other wood fired oven techniques you can try like hay smoked broccolini and cheery tomato's.
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Gday, welcome to the wood fired oven podcast, where I take a deep dive into the techniques, recipes and history of wood fired oven cooking. My name is Mark, an obsessed and somewhat curious fan of outdoor cooking, especially with my wood fired oven. Follow my podcast in your favorite app and listen in as I go searching for the best recipes, tips, and advice to both super-charge our cooking skills and motivate you to light up your favorite outdoor cooking gear, this weekend.
In this episode, I'm going to be cooking slow cooked beef cheeks with red wine and thyme in the wood fired oven. This dish is gorgeous. It's slow cooked, rich, juicy goodness. It's a family favorite and sharing it with you. It involves two parts. Day one is preparing their marinade and day two is out there in front of the gorgeous oven, cooking this beautiful dish.
So, today I'm going to prepare the marinade for the beef cheeks. It's really simple to do. I've got two gorgeous beef cheeks in front of me here on the bench. They both weigh about 300 grams. So they're nice and big. Use a couple of them for this dish. You can get smaller beef cheeks, but the 300 grams is great. Certainly feeds a four in my family and plenty left over for the week. Beef cheeks, they're gorgeous cut of meat actually, really liked them. They come packed in my part of the world, two in a pack and they actually look like a cheek strangely enough. I t obviously, if you didn't know, comes from the cows face, it's a fairly economical cut of beef for us in Australia. It's really growing in popularity actually and my local butcher tells me they sell out of stock every week.
It's one of those hardworking muscles in the cow. So like other hardworking muscles, it really benefits from that slow cooking to loosen it up and to make it tender and delicious. It is a cut that seems to match so well with red wine. Well, certainly it does for me. You know the beef cheeks are cooked when they are tender and pulling apart. And that usually takes about three to four hours in my wood fired oven. Now this particular dish benefits from marinating the beef cheeks in a bottle of red wine for about 18 to 24 hours. So, this time tomorrow I'll be prepping the rest of the dish. So the wines in, and I usually add a couple of cloves of garlic, just preparing the garlic and these are beautiful, fresh garlic cloves. I bruise them by smashing them and drop them into the container with the beef cheeks and the red wine time.
Thyme - the herb grows next to my wood fired oven outside. It gets a lot of sunshine and it just loves it. I've got about three or four sprigs of time, that I'm just popping into the container. Cracked paper, getting added in, and it's all done, not a lot to preparing , the marinade and the beef cheeks. The magic happens now over the next 24 hours. So I'll just stay head over there and pop it into the fridge. And that's really it. So we'll check in again in about 24 hours.
So welcome to day two. I'm outside, just prepping the rest of the ingredients for the beef cheeks. I've had the oven warming up now for about 90 minutes using some gorgeous, dry iron bark. So that's raging away.
Now I've taken the beef cheeks out of the fridge and they're just sitting on the bench here, and I'm just slowly letting them come up to room temperature, on the bench. I've got a couple of garlic, cloves just peeling those and finally slicing those and sitting them in a bowl on my baker's tray. I'm using two onions, I've only got small onions. I'd just normally use one large one, but I've got a couple here and I just dice them up finely and put them into the bowl as well.
Yep. Oh, I was just starting to water that, eh, slicing through the onions combines a couple of enzymes together, which creates this chemical, which floats up into your eyes and that's, that's why you get tears. It's a little chemical warfare going on, by the onions. Oh my gosh.
And I've got one large carrot, which I'm dicing up a fairly fine. Celery, carrot and onions, which is a Soffritto. And actually the Soffritto is an Italian word. Interestingly, for 'under fried' or 'fried slowly'. Basically is that process of gently cooking vegetables and oil to soften and release their flavors. For a Ragù alla Bolognese you would do a similar process when preparing them. So I've got the trifecta, the holy trinity, as some Italians call it.
I've got about a 250 - 300 grams of small mushrooms. I'm just going to halve those mushrooms. So, I've got two rashes of bacon. I'm going to dice them up into about one centimeter diced, bits of bacon. These are huge goodness, huge slices of bacon.
So, I'm just taking the beef cheeks out of the marinade and just placing them on the plate with some paper towels, patting them dry. You want them nice and dry so you can sear them well in the piping hot cast iron. And now I'm just pouring off the wine into a jug. So I can take it out to the oven and pour that into the cast iron pot, with all the ingredients shortly. And that's it all the preparation has now been done. I'm gonna pop this set of ingredients into the fridge for about another hour, and then it's going to be time to head on out to the wood fired oven and to start cooking. The best part of the day.
Okay. So I'm standing in front of my oven here. I've had a large cast iron pot and lid heating up in the oven for about an hour, and I like to get it really hot so I can sear the beef cheeks well at the start of the cook. So I've set up my Baker's tray beside me here with all of my bowls of ingredients and they're easy for me to reach and everything's ready to go.
So the first step is to sear the beef cheeks. So I'm just adding a little bit of oil now to the cast iron pot, letting that get a little hot, and then I'm going to drop on the beef cheeks in a minute. I'm just applying a little bit of salt and pepper to both sides of the beef cheeks. So, when I drop them into the pot, I'm going to get instant smell satisfaction. I'm searing the beef cheeks now. It is piping hot. Oh my gosh, the smell coming off, the beef already infused with that red wine just smells devine! The aim is to sear both sides, to brown the meat, and to start the maillard reaction on the surface of the meat. It takes about three to five minutes in my pot to do that. The maillard reaction developed by searing the beef at these very high temperatures. And it's responsible for that beautiful brown crusty complex, deep flavors that you find in seared meat.
The fire in the oven is just doing fantastic. I'm just going to pour myself a little glass of wine. It seems appropriate while I'm smelling all this gorgeous wine. Aromas coming off this searing beef. Hmmmm...yum!.
So its been about five minutes aside. Now I'm taking the cheeks out of the oven, checking both sides to make sure I've got a nice crusty finish. And they are just looking great. So I'm going to take them out of the pot, set them aside. So I'm just adding the bacon pieces to the pot now, and I'm going to cook them for probably three or four minutes. Nothing quite like bacon sizzling in a pan. Okay, the bacon's looking pretty good they're now coming off the heat and I'm going to throw in the mushrooms into the pot. I like to give them a good stir and actually put them back into the oven near the fire, just to soften off for two or three minutes. Got a beautiful, small fire now in the back of the oven, glowing up the back bricks, it's looking great.
I don't worry too much about the overall heat in the oven when I'm doing this type of dish. I know that if I clear the dome, the oven is nice and hot and I just work the cooler and warmer parts of the oven floor to get the right amount of heat to the pot. Just going to add another log onto the fire, beautiful small piece of iron bark, just to keep that flame moving in the back. Yeah, that didn't take long to light up at all. Oven's nice and warm. The wood is nice and dry.
Lots of birds in the background outside, this afternoon. It's a beautiful day here. Lots of big blue sky in my part of the world here. So I'm just taking out the mushrooms. They're looking beautiful, actually, lovely aroma coming off those as well, setting those aside. The bottom of the pan is certainly looking at nice and brown adding a little drop of oil, and I'm just putting in the onions to sizzle those off now. I want to caramelize these, soften them up and popping in the carrots now as well. Last thing to put in the holy trinity is the celery. There we go, they're all in now, giving them a stir and I'm going to put the back in the oven.
So, how long this process takes is dependent on your temperature, obviously, but I would suspect it's going to take maybe five or six minutes or so. It's good to check your food as it cooks in the oven, especially when you're doing soft foods like onions, it can burn pretty easily. Nah, this is looking great though. The smell is just fantastic. The Italians were certainly on it with this combination just gorgeous. And the fire now is really settling into a beautifully established fire, lots of embers now, on the floor, it doesn't take long at all for wood to get lit.
So, just adding the garlic in now stirring that through, that doesn't take long. They're all the sliced garlic, we did. One thing I like about the area where we live, lots of beautiful birdsong, particularly in the mid afternoons when the weather is nice. Keeps me company out here in front of the oven. It's time to add the wine into the dish, just bringin the pot, out of the oven, all that gorgeously flavored wine from the beef and the garlic, the rosemary that's in the pot. Yeah. And you get this instant hit of smell satisfaction when that wine hits that cast iron. That is absolutely fantastic. So, just giving the wine a little stir. I'm going to pop the cast iron pot back into the oven for a few minutes, just to warm that wine up, get it gently simmering before I add the ingredients back into the dish. So it really, isn't a very difficult dish to make, just need to get a few things in the right order.
Speaker 5 (12:28):
All right. So bringing out the pot probably for the last time, for a while now, and adding all of the pre cooked ingredients back into the pot, the onions, the mushrooms. I'm adding in the handful of pulled pork, which I like to add into this dish as well, that was made on my smoker, about a month ago. It's been waiting in the freezer patiently for today. And placing the beef cheeks back into the pot, making sure they're nicely drenched in the red wine. I'm adding the bouquet of spices into the pot now. Submerging, those so they're nice and infused with that red wine. Adding about a three-quarters of a cup or so of water to the pot as well. Making sure everything's nicely stirred through before the long sleep next to the fire inside this now glowing wood fired oven in front of me.
I like to keep the landing of the wood fired oven, nice and tidy. Nice and clean. I've got a couple of teatowels that I use just to keep it nice and clean. It keeps the charcoal away. Any stains or smears away, keeps it looking like new. The pots now going back in the oven. I like to put it back in initially for about 30 minutes, just to allow the flame to kiss the food before the lid goes on. That gets it nice and hot. It gets it sizzling and bubbling away before it gets closed up for about three hours.
So, it's been about 30 minutes now. I'm just taking the pot out of the oven, having a good look at it. Yeah, It's looking absolutely fantastic. In fact, the, the wine mixture is looking quite rich and dark already. The beef cheeks are just ever so slightly submerged in the top, putting the lid back on, and now I'm going to move the pot back into the oven, but now into a cooler area of the oven, on the other side of the oven, from where the fire is, and that's a really nice place for it to be. And that's it. The dish will now just soak up all that gorgeous heat. I'm going to head out to my favorite chair, pour myself a glass of wine, another one, and reflect to my handiwork. It's a beautiful afternoon here. We're going to check back in, in about three hours to see how the dish doing.
It is a good idea to check periodically that the liquid isn't evaporating off too quick. I find that with the cast on lids, on these types of pots seems to keep an awful lot of the moisture in. And I have noticed in the past with this particular dish, that it may need an extra cup of, so of water throughout it's cook. If I've got the oven a little too hot, which is possible, for this cook this afternoon, then I'll need to add in an extra cup of so, but that just keeps the dish from burning and ensures that there's enough moisture retainned in the dish. When I served this dish, I like it to have plenty of moisture surrounding the food. I really like to serve this food with, mashed potatoes, with a little bit of cream and butter and thyme and pepper, a dash of salt. Today, i'm also preparing some roasted leeks, which I just, clean and put straight onto the brick oven floor. I'm also going to accompany this dish this afternoon with some hay smoked cherry tomatoes and broccolini. And what I do with those is I put them on a cast iron pan or a dish, and I put them in the oven for about 20 minutes or so to soften the broccolini up to soften and to release some of those juices from the tomatoes. And then I carefully place both of those into a stainless steel sieve . And I bring out embers from the oven late in the cook. I've got a brick that I use to support the stainless steel sieve. And I put a couple of handfuls of hay, very dry hay directly on the embers. They ignite almost instantly creating this gorgeous smoke, which I placed the sieve right over the top of and actually both the broccolini and the cherry tomatoes seem to absorb these flavors. The cherry tomatoes are very soft and I find this softer the vegetables, the more it seems to pull in those, hay, smokey, gorgeous flavors. Last time I did the broccolini, however, it did kiss it with the gorgeous taste as well. It's a little harder obviously than the tomatoes. Give it a go, go down to your local pet store and find some hay if you can't source it locally, and give it a shot. If you, if you take nothing else out of this episode, try smoking some vegetables with dried hay. It provides a beautiful earthy aroma, which isn't too strong to the vegetables and man, a man, does hay look amazing when it ignites over the embers, driving up this gorgeous smoke through your vegetables? It's a it's, it's pretty neat.
Okay. Just taking the cast iron pot and this gorgeous dish out of the oven. It's finished its cooking. I'm about to cook the vegetables that I talked about before, but I'm just going to open up this pot now and take a look yeah, look it looks fine! just going to pull apart some of the beef here and it is just falling. Oh man, it's just falling apart. The rich red wine that it's been sitting in heads reduced, and it just smells absolutely fantastic. The family's going to enjoy this. I'm going to enjoy this. And I really hope you've enjoyed this episode. And thanks for taking this little journey in my backyard with me this afternoon,
Music has this ability I think, to remind of us things - long forgotten. Hearing a tune on the radio, or a musical motif in your headphones can spark memories from childhood....from a different time. It can prompt feelings and emotions…can’t it…. that are very real and powerful, don't you think? That’s why music is such a large part of life for so many cultures. It brings joy, fun, peace and community. Good food I think - is the same. The flavours and aromas can transport us to back to our holidays, take us to back intro favourite restaurants, back to times with our family. It also provides comfort, delight and peace while we eat and share goods times.
When I was a young boy - I spent time in North Canterbury in New Zealand. I was reminded recently of playing in the dry dusty dirt - the smells of fields and the soil. That happened when I was cooking this recipe. For some reason the aroma of the earthy wine infused beef sparked images of this scene in my mind. That's why I'm here talking about it today. It took me back to a lovely place in my distant past. Food is one of those magic things that we touch, taste and smell every day. Combine that with sharing good food with those we care about…well…. what more is there to say. Stay safe, have fun and go cook with fire.
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Thanks again for listening. Catch you next time.