Pretty well every quotation about failure makes a virtue of it. None of us set out to hash things up. So, why celebrate it? When I set about preparing beef cheeks sous vide, making a bags of it was far from my objective. But, with the beef in a bag, a bags was made and I’m not overjoyed.
I did learn from the experience. Hopefully, I can pass on the wisdom gained by my relative failing, so as you can achieve perfection.. I think that I erred in two ways. Firstly, at 60ºC, the temperature of the water was not high enough to break down the connective tissues in the cheeks. This led to the meat (which was very tasty, if a little dry) being perfectly cooked but difficult to eat (There is a lot of connective stuff in a beef cheek).
The second issue, I believe, is the cooking method. I have cooked cheeks sous vide before and they have been reasonably tasty. However, they really don’t compare to long braised cheeks, cooked over five to six hours in a low to moderate oven. That way, the connective stuff all breaks down and adds a lovely unctuous element to the dish. This time, sous vide just didn’t do this. Like the cow that owned the cheeks before I did, I have a lot of ruminating to do on this one.
Side note on cooking methods: I am a big fan. I love the simplicity of preparation and the wonderful results that can (usually) be achieved. However, I also love the aroma of cooking that permeates the house when I have a slow braise going on.
In truth, it was a very tasty dish. So, if you want to give this a go, do so. But be prepared to do a lot of slicing. Perhaps cooking at a higher temperature would make a difference? Perhaps….
- Two beef cheeks
- Salt (I used smoked sea salt)
- Pepper corns
- Aromatic herb (I used rosemary)
- An onion or two
- 500 ml of beef stock (homemade if possible)
- A generous glass of good red wine
- A roux of butter and flour to thicken the sauce
- Salt and pepper to season the sauce
Season the beef with the salt and peppercorns (I left them whole). Add a lump or two of butter and a sprig of rosemary.
Seal and place in a water bath for 48 hours at 60ºC.
Make a sauce with the onion, stock and wine. First heat some oil in a small pan and add the onion. Sweat it until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the stock and wine. Reduce by two thirds. Season to taste. Add the roux a little at a time to get the desired consistency. One can sieve the sauce at this stage or keep the onions in for texture and taste. I left them in this time.
Remove the beef from the water bath. Here’s how mine looked.
Remove from the bags and pat it dry.
Brown it on a frying pan and carve. Serve it with some nice potatoes.
Despite my comments above, we really enjoyed this dish. I just can’t help thinking it would have been even better if I had gone a more traditional route. I suppose there is only one way to find out. So, as soon as the autumn leaves start to fall in Dublin, I will get out my casserole dish and find out if I have learned anything from this (relative) failure.
In conclusion, I think I have gained some wisdom. I have learned that even if not perfect, a dish may be very tasty indeed. Though, I would like some comments from sous viders so I can learn how to improve.