Baby-boy John Henry, now known as Honi’s Married John Henry (what a relief to our matriarch) figured out the recipe for our newest cut of meat, the beef cheek. Here it is from one of our best cooks. (Parenthetical comments are mine.)
Beef cheek: a delicious hybrid in taste and texture of the fat and lean sections of brisket.
As I was heading back to NYC from my visit over the holidays, my father, the patriarch of JVF, reached into the cooler and handed me an oddly shaped cut of meat. Before I could read the label, he grabbed my hand and said, 'I don't quite know what to do with this cut so I'm giving it to a few of my cooks to experiment with it. Cook something, let me know how it turns out.'
Well, in my family being handed a cut of meat and told you are 'one of my cooks' is like being handed a sword and shield to a squire becoming a knight. I was pumped.
When I got home and thawed it out I was very pleased with what I saw. The marbling was marvelous and the grain ran in straight lines like you would find in a flank or skirt steak. It had a deep red color that screamed to me it was a cut full of flavor that could hold up against other bold tastes. I was hosting the AFC and NFC championship games that Sunday so I decided I would make Chicago beef sliders with my prized cheeks.
Cooking the meat:
- First a simple brine. Sugar, salt and water. 24 hours. (wet brine recipe is 1 cup kosher or sea salt, ½ cup brown sugar for every gallon of water. Warm the water, add the spice, and stir until dissolved)
- Next rinse and pat dry.
- Remove the silver skin (silver skin is connective tissue that must be removed to ensure tenderness and natural beef taste) To remove it, get a very sharp paring knife, make small cuts just below the silver skin like you were removing the skin from a fish fillet. Discard silver skin.
- Salt the cheek. Coarse if you got it.
- Heat cast iron skillet to searing hot.
- Throw pieces into skillet. Sear both sides. No need to cook. Just want that salt to bond to meat and get a little char on each side.
- Throw meat into slow cooker.
- Open large jar of pepperoncini. Throw in slow cooker.
- Throw in a whole bulb of garlic, peel removed. (Note well, he says “bulb”, not just a “clove”. J-boy follows my maxim that there is no such thing as too much garlic).
- Cook for 5-7 hours.
Making of sliders:
- Remove meat. Shred with hands like you would pulled pork.
- Take liquid, pepperoncini and garlic. Blend together with a blend stick.
- Take good slider rolls. One side spread the blended liquid. The other, horseradish mayo (or sour cream and horseradish, my preference).
- Place meat on the side of mayo and a slice of sharp provolone on the other.
- Bake for a couple minutes to melt the cheese.
- Consume with a porter or English Pale ale.
Final verdict: Cheek is a delicious, beefy cut of meat. It can inject its rich beefy flavors against all comers. Think of it for recipes like beef peposo or smoked BBQ.
For those daring amongst us, try a marinade and cook like beef fajitas. My bet is a cut against the grain after grilled to medium will result in a delicious Tex mex treat.