When my local farmer offered me 25 pounds of grass-fed beef cheek for a mere $2/lb, how could I refuse! It didn’t matter that I had never cooked beef cheek before! A quick scour for recipes on the internet revealed that the only way to cook beef cheek is to braise it. But what you add for flavor is completely up to you! I also happened to have some gorgeous fresh organic butternut squash from the Farmer’s Market. These two ingredients inspired this delicious, comfort food. Yes, beef cheek equals comfort food.
Never had beef cheek? After braising, it really is so tender you can cut it with a spoon. It is a muscle, so the flavor is very familiar (not organy), but it also has a lot of connective tissue which becomes soft and gelatinous after braising. The braising liquid becomes ridiculously rich and flavorful. The butternut squash in this dish is optional, but the flavors work very well together. It makes the meal feel very much like a stew. If you prefer, after braising, you could remove the meat and puree the squash in the broth for a thick gravy (making this dish more like a pot roast). I also think this would be delightful served on a bed of spaghetti squash, in which case you might want to leave the butternut squash out of the recipe (of course, who says you can’t have two kinds of winter squash with supper?!). This recipe serves 7-8.
Can’t find a good source of beef cheek? This recipe would work with any stewing beef or pot roast.
- 5 pounds beef cheek (or stewing beef)
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 2 pounds butternut squash, optional
- 3 cups bone broth (beef or chicken)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ¼-½ tsp salt (depending on how well seasoned your broth is), to taste
- 2-3 Tbsp tallow (or substitute lard, bacon fat, or extra virgin coconut oil)
- I preferred to leave my beef cheeks whole (the pieces were varying sizes). If you like, you could chop into 2” cubes. Slice onions into ¼” thick half-moons. Peel, seed and cube butternut squash into 1-2” cubes.
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- Heat 2Tbsp tallow in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat. Add beef cheeks in batches to brown on all sides (mine took three batches). Remove beef cheeks from the pot and set aside.
- Add onion to stock pot (you may need to add an extra Tbsp of tallow here) and brown until slightly caramelized, 7-8 minutes.
- Return cheek to pot, arranging tightly together over the bottom of the pot (it’s okay if you have 2-3 layers). Add broth, cinnamon sticks and salt. Add butternut squash on top of the beef. (The broth should just barely cover the beef. It’s okay if not all the squash is covered, but make sure the cinnamon sticks are submerged).
- Cover and bring to a simmer on the stove top over high heat (shouldn’t take long), then place in the oven.
- Cook for 3 hours. Enjoy!