Autumn Cuisine - Pig CheeksLast night, I purchased two pork cheeks and filled the room with warm and intoxicating autumn flavors. At Catavino HQ in Terrassa, Spain, we’re looking at crisp cool nights, hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes me think of big reds and rich slow cooked meats.And it’s not often that we share home recipes, but with the house full of stewed meat flavors and a big glass of rich red wine in front of me, I figured it was the least I could do.

An frequently overlooked ingredient, when you come to Spain, is pork cheeks. They tend to be on most menus in some form or another, and curiously, they’re often the cheaper plate. Yet despite their thrifty price, they taste like pure heaven. The meat tends to be quite tough, and therefore, you need to cook them longer, allowing the wine, herbs or whatever your using to braise them in to suck up every morsel of flavor to create a rich decadent experience.

The meat literally falls off the bone – if your lucky enough to have them served on the bone – while remaining lightly firm with a sweet tenderness that makes any tenderloin turn its head in shame. I say this recognizing the difficulty Americans will have finding this cut, but if you have a good butcher, suggest they cut you a piece.

Depending on your oven, estimate around two hours for the braise. Simply grab a pot, add some herbs, vegetables and red wine. I might even suggest adding just a touch of chicken or beef stock as well. The key is slow cooking, while adding just enough liquid to the pot so that the ingredients are partially covered at all times.

Simple rules are: lightly dust the pork cheeks with flour, brown them in the pot with some olive oil, and then throw in a mire poix of vegetables. As everything browns pour in a few cups of liquid and cover. Now set that to simmer for a few hours and you will be smiling as the house begins to fill with flavor. At this stage, red wine should be opened. Tonight we enjoyed a bottle of Habla N.4 Syrah from Extremadura. Rich in black raspberry fruit, pairing beautifully with the savory pork cheeks, and showing just a hint of bacon and licorice notes. Granted, I would pair any red with a bit of acidity that can cut through the rich flavors with this meal. Nothing too herbal, but instead, heavier on the red fruits.

I can’t recommend this dish enough. It’s pure comfort food. As the autumn chill settles across the leaf covered soil, we crave foods that stick to your bones and bring a warm and satisfied smile to your face.

So what do you like as the weather changes? What wines do you turn to? What is your fail safe comfort food recipe this autumn?

Till Soon,
Ryan Opaz

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