“Why would you waste three days cooking a bit of beef?” “How can a cut like that taste good?” “Wouldn’t a nice fillet be tastier?” So go the questions. So goes the debate. I can tell you now. The debate is over. There is very little to be said. For the technical amongst you, this was beef cheeks sous vide 54/72 (129/72 American and 54ºC for 72 hours for the non technical).
My ingredient list acts as a counterpoint to the cooking time. It’s very short. Merciful short given the cooking time.
- 2 beef cheeks, trimmed of any bits that don’t look like meat.
- A few dried porcini mushrooms
- Black pepper to season
Put the mushrooms into a blender and blitz them to a fine powder. If they are good porcini, they will blitz to a really fine dust. Grind the black pepper. Sprinkle the beef with the black pepper and porcini. Go easy on the mushroom as it is packed with flavour and will have three days to permeate the meat.
Vacuum seal the cheeks. I double sealed mine as I have seen too many pictures of long-cooked sous vide stuff where the bag bursts or leaks.
Side note on other stuff that can go wrong: Bacteria can cause a problem. If one is unlucky enough to have some lactobacillus on the surface of the meat, it can grow and create a foul smell from the meat. It won’t kill you but it’s best to avoid it. Do so by dipping the bagged meat into boiling water for 30 seconds or so before cooking. I did mine in the same pot in which I sous-vided the beef. As soon as I had boiled the bag, I added cold water to bring the temperature down for the long cook. That was energy saving too.
Go away for a long weekend or have three sleeps. Remove the beef from the bag, being careful to preserve the juices. Brown the beef on a pan, with a blowtorch or in a screaming hot oven for a few minutes. I prefer the cast iron pan. Just before searing the beef, cut up an onion and fry it until it starts to brown. Add a quarter litre of good beef stock and a glass of red wine to the pan. Cook until it has thickened nicely. Add the bag juices at this stage and reduce it down again. Taste and season. Season the beef too and give it a good sear. I served mine on a bed of mash with the sauce, including the onions, poured over.
There is enough in one beef cheek to feed two people. Despite my photo above, that’s what we did. The other one went into the freezer and we had it a week later. If you look around the blog, you will see an attempt at beef cheeks done at 58ºC for 48 hours and also 60ºC for 48 hours. Both have their merits but, this approach leaves them chewing the cud. In my opinion, the debate is over. For great beef cheeks sous vide, it’s 54ºC for 72 hours. I was really happy with the flavour and texture of the beef. If you have a sous vide, try it. If you don’t, get one and you will see why. Debate over!