Blue Moon Braised Pork Cheeks Basquaise

Beer braised pork cheeks BasquaiseA few weeks back I was at the butcher shop and picked up some various pork parts, 2 pounds of cheeks being part of the haul.  They were really inexpensive at $2.49 per pound and I had intended on curing them but ended up putting the pork cheeks in the freezer to save for another day.  Last week that day came and the pork cheeks turned out to be Thursday night dinner.  Originally I wanted to make them for Wednesday Date Night dinner but we ended up going out instead.  With pork cheeks thawed and my creative juices flowing, I decided to make a kind of Basque style beer braised pork cheek. 

I knew I was going to braise the cheeks but I hadn’t settled on the braising liquid components.  Since Basque Style Chicken is a favorite of ours I thought I’d take some elements from the recipe and see what else I could incorporate.  The light bulb went off when I realized there were a couple of bottles of Blue Moon beer in the fridge and some blood oranges kicking around.   And what does every Blue Moon draft beer come with?  An orange slice!  My braising liquid was locked down.  I didn’t think I’d need any tomatoes for acid or sweetness since I was using oranges so I left them out of the ingredients.

I’ll admit to worrying a little about this decision and the new braising combination.  It was going to be either a superbly flavorful pairing or end up being one note; flat and blah, if I didn’t get the  ratios right.  I really didn’t have to worry.  The sauce is balanced and has a nice red pepper flavor mixing in with the orange, and zippy pimenton.  The only flaw I found was the lavender didn’t come through as much as I wanted it to.  I’ll just add some more next time.  Experimenting isn’t perfect but this one was very close!  I really think this braise will work with just about any meat you like in case you don’t have a butcher shop nearby which has pork cheeks.  Since the pork cheeks are pretty small they cooked and tenderized in a lot less time than I thought they would.

Pork Cheeks Basquaise (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs pork cheeks (should be 6-8 pieces)
  • 4 oz guanciale, cubed
  • 4 blood oranges, juice 3 (should have 1 ½ C of juice), segment 1
  • Zest from 2 of the blood oranges
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 red peppers, julienned
  • 1 bottle Blue Moon beer (12 oz)
  • 1 ½ Tbs Spanish pimenton (picante)
  • 1 tsp lavender
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley

In a heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.  In batches, season the pork cheeks with salt and pepper and brown.  When browned, remove from pan, set aside and brown the next batch.

When all of the cheeks have been browned, drain off the excess oil.  Place pan back on burner and add the guanciale.  Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add the shallots, garlic, and red pepper, cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Next, stir in the orange zest, pimenton and lavender.

Pour in the orange juice, stir and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil.  Add the beer and bring to a boil.

Return pork cheeks to pan with any accumulated juices.  Once the liquid resumes boiling reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 60-75 minutes, until fork tender.

If the sauce is thin, remove the cheeks and reduce sauce to desired consistency.  Add chopped parlsey.

Serve on a platter with orange segments.

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