Apple cider braised pork cheeks
A perfect dish for late fall or winter.
4-6 pork cheeks (you should be able to find these at a reputable butcher, but call a day or two before to make sure you can get them)
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 oz of bourbon (rye whiskey will also do if you want to keep it Canadian)
1/2 bulb fennel chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 rib celery chopped
1 bulb garlic finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 Tbsp walnut oil
a couple leaves of sage
salt and pepper
Pat dry the pork cheeks and dust them with a bit of flour and some salt and pepper. Heat a heavy bottom pan (preferably a dutch oven) to searing range then add a splash of the oil and the cheeks (I like walnut oil as it holds up well to heat and gives the dish a nice nutty flavour). Sear the cheeks briefly on each side then set aside.
In the same hot pan add the fennel, carrots and celery and lower heat to medium heat. Keep turning the veg until it begins to soften then add the garlic. Saute for another minute or so (being careful not to burn the garlic), then add the bourbon. The alcohol in the bourbon will burn off quite fast, so as soon as it has reduced to a point of glistening the vegetables take the pan off the stove top.
Place the cheeks back in the pan and cover the cheeks with the cider and chicken stock. Add the sprig of thyme and bay leaf, then cover the pan (with a tight fitting lid) and place it in a 325 degree oven for about two to three hours (or until the cheeks are very tender).
Once the cheeks are done (they'll be so tender you could shred them with a fork) remove them from the braising liquid and set aside under a bit of tin foil to keep them warm. Put the pan back on the stove top, strain the veg through a sieve to get all that fantastic liquid, then reduce to a nice saucy consistency and season to your liking (if the sauce will just coat a spoon you are looking good). Once the sauce is looking to your liking, dice up the sage leaves to and add them to finish.
Serve the cheeks on top of a sweet potato (or just a regular) mash with a vibrant green vegetable like asparagus or Brussels sprouts as a side. Lay the cheeks down on top of the mash (two hungry people can eat two no problem, but if you want to be fancy, you can make small plates with individual cheeks) and spoon the sauce in equal portions.