Pork cheeks are an overlooked cut of pork in my opinion. So when some friends of mine told me they had bought too large a bulk of cheeks from Ibiric black foot pigs, I didn’t hesitate to say yes to the offer of taking them of their hands. One of the most efficient ways of tenderizing pork cheeks is adding wine or beer and letting them stew slowly for a few hours, so I decided to go all in on the booze and literally drown the cheeks in Marsala, and what do you know? All the dinner guests ended up with af smile on their faces. A cheeky one of course.
This dish is not done in a hurry, but it’s really worth the wait, and in fact most of the time is not spent frantically stressing around the kitchen, but just waiting for the cheeks to quietly cook to a perfectly tender and rich taste. And of course, you can always kill the wait time by tasting the red wine you plan to serve alongside the dish. I know I would…
Pork cheeks in Marsala with champ (mashed potatoes with scallions) – serves 6
For the cheeks
5 lbs (2.5 kg) pork cheeks
2 bottles of sweet Marsala wine
4 medium sized carrots, cut into chunky bites
2 springs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 celery root (alternatively 4-5 parsnips), cut into chunky bites
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) full cream
Salt and pepper to taste
For the champ
4 lbs (2 kg) potatoes
2 bundles (about 10) scallions/green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups (about 375 ml) milk or cream
1/2 cup (170 g) butter
1 tsp salt or to taste
Pepper to taste
1. First season and brown all the cheeks in a frying pan, so that they get a nice brown color like the picture below. You will have to do this a little at the time.
2. Once all the cheeks are browned transfer them to a large cooking pot together with half of the carrots and celery and all the other ingredients. Be sure not to cut the vegetables into too small sizes as you will want to remove them again once it has all cooked under lid on low heat for 3 hours.
3. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut the scallions.
4. When the cheeks have cooked for 2.5 hours, remove the chunks of carrot and celery as well as the herbs from the pot, and instead pour in the fresh chunks of carrot and celery or parsnip. Also, start cooking the potatoes in a large pot, filled with enough salted water to cover the potatoes. Cook them until they are tender. That should take about 20 minutes.
5. Drain all the water from the potatoes and set the pot back on the stove on low heat for at few minutes to dry them out completely.
6. Heat the milk or cream (whatever you prefer) in a saucepan together with the cut scallions. It shouldn’t boil, because it is only done to prevent the milk from making the champ cold once it’s poured in.
7. Mash the potatoes together with the butter, and then stir in the milk and scallion mixture. Season with salt and pepper and the champ is done.
8. Back to the cheeks. Add the cream and heat to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and the cheeks are ready to be served.