Ragout, Daube, call it what you want – but take beef cheeks, if you can. I adore this kind of meat which is not highly regarded in a world where everybody goes for the so-called “noble” parts like steaks or fillets, and quick pan-frying or wok-ing is all we’ve still got time for. Yet the boeuf à braiser, as they call it in France, will take more time and bring greater pleasures, if you treat it right, with care, and at low temperatures.
The above stew consists of only three ingredients (!): the beef cheeks, a lot of onions and some garlic. You just add salt and pepper, some fennel seeds if you like or some thyme, and that’s it. Well, not quite: I’ve marinated the meat in red wine with classic spices over night – and I added some of that liquid to the preparation before cooking.
Then I closed the pot, put it in the oven at 120°C (248°F) and forgot it for half a day, I didn’t touch it at all. After six hours the marvel unfolds. The kitchen will be filled with a magnificent perfume already. Now it’s tasting time and you don’t even need a knife: the cheeks that were so hard to cut when raw, have turned into tender, aromatic bites you won’t forget that fast. Which is logic; they’re slow food at its best. And a real French classic (in former times the meat was flambéed with Cognac before braising; I’m not a fan of that).