In Denmark there are more pigs than people – about 20 million pigs to 5,7 million humans. That’s the highest pig-to-person ratio in the world. For years the farmers threw the pig cheeks away not knowing what to do with them. A few years ago, some of the best cooks in Denmark, including René Redzepi from the world famous restaurant Noma, put their heads together and came up with many new recipes for pig cheeks. Now they are the considered some of the best food you can serve. And they are very simple to make. Just be sure to trim them for fat and sinew and after a very hours you’ll have a very delicious dinner.
Cider and Beer Braised Pork Cheeks
4 main course servings
Gastrique: 1½ cup dark brown sugar, 1 cup apple cider vinegar*
Pork Cheeks: 12 pork cheeks, trimmed for fat and sinew, ½ head of celery root, peeled and cut in smaller pieces, 2 onions cut in smaller pieces, 2 apples, peeled, quartered, cored, 2 cups apple cider, 1 bottle strong, dark beer, 2 oz. butter.
To make gastrique, boil sugar and vinegar in a large saucepand until reduced to ½ cup, about 30 minutes. Set gastrique aside.
To make pork cheeks, preheat oven to 400°F. Melt 2 oz. butter in a large ovenproof skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Brown pork cheeks, turning, until browned on all sides, 8-10 minutes.
Arrange celery root, onions and apples around the pork. Add cider and beer. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and transfer to oven. Braise cheeks 1½-2 hours until a knife slides easily through meat. Transfer meat from braising liquid and keep it warm.
Strain braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepand; discard fat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Add gastrique or honey, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add butter gradually, stirring slowly (do not whisk) until it is all absorbed.
To serve, drizzle pork cheeks with the sauce. Serve remaining sauce alongside. Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.
*1 tbsp. of honey can be used instead of Gastrique.