Red Wine and Prune Braised Pork Cheeks
By Matt Leyes, Black Sage Butcher
This dish is very classic French but transfers very easily to the South Okanagan. We have the big red wines and the plum trees growing Italian prunes that we dehydrate in the summer to add richness to our braises in the winter. Your butcher should able to get you pork cheeks if you give them a little notice and your reward will be a rich, succulent stew. Our recommendation is for pork cheeks but if you are too squeamish to try them – ask for boneless pork shoulder instead.
The flavours here are big and rich. Pork cheeks are packed with collagen, so the cheeks and the sauce become silky smooth with gelatin while the dish takes a rest in a low oven. The prunes dissolve into the sauce bringing richness and a bit of fruity brightness to the underlying earthiness of the dried mushrooms. Enjoy the dish serve atop your best, garlicky mashed potatoes with roasted fresh mushrooms, carrots, pearl onions and meaty chunks of almost crisp lardons.
- ¼ pound smoked bacon (thick cut and cut again into chunky lardons)
- 2 pounds pork cheeks (seasoned with salt)
- 3 cups red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 1 large carrot (peeled and chopped)
- 2 ribs celery (chopped)
- 4-5 whole cloves garlic
- Herb bouquet: 2 bay leaves, 1 small bunch fresh thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, 2 tsp black peppercorn, ½ cinnamon stick
- 4 whole dried shiitake mushrooms
- 10 prunes (dried and pitted)
- 4 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 4 tbsp. cold water
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Brown lardons in a large skillet until just starting to crisp, remove from pan and reserve for later.
- In leftover bacon fat, brown pork cheeks on all sides. When they are golden brown, move them to a dutch oven or a large casserole dish.
- Sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the skillet until vegetables have released some of their liquid and dissolved any meaty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add red wine and chicken stock to the pan and bring everything to a boil.
- Add boiling wine, stock and vegetables to dutch oven along with herb bouquet, prunes and dried shiitakes, wrap tightly with tin foil, lid and place in preheated oven for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
- When the meat is tender remove from liquid with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Strain the liquid into a clean pot – I like to pour a ladleful of liquid over the meat and cover the bowl with plastic wrap so the meat doesn’t dry out while I complete the sauce.
- Bring the reserved liquid to a simmer. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken, reintroduce the meat and reserved liquid to the thickened sauce.
About Black Sage Butcher:
Black Sage Butcher is an independent butcher shop in the heart of Oliver (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia) focused on providing quality, local, naturally-raised meat products. They offer a diverse selection of classic fresh cuts, house-made sausages, and marinated and grill-ready meats. Both butchers bring with them decades of experience in established and beloved restaurants, which is evident in the wonderful flavours and creative product options found in this speciality shop.