As featured on my podcast.
Wood Fired Oven
Low to medium – heat up to about 180 – 200oC. Keep flames throughout cooking.
Day 1: 20 mins
Day 2: 20 mins plus 3-4 hrs cooking.
2 large beef cheeks – trimmed.
1 bottle red wine. I like to use a big South Australian Shiraz.
5-6 thyme sprigs.
4-5 garlic cloves. Bruise two of these for marinating. Reserve the others for Day two. These will be chopped finely.
4 strips of bacon. Slice into 1 cm bits.
Vegetable or olive oil.
300 g small mushrooms. Cut in half.
1 brown onion, diced.
1 celery stalk, diced.
1 carrot, diced.
2 bay leaves.
1 sprig of rosemary.*
Handful of smoked pulled pork (if you don’t have a smoker – you can of course omit this step).
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar (don’t omit this – its lovely).
Parsley, roughly chopped.
Lemon or orange zest.
Salt and pepper to season.
Serve with potato mash, broccolini or leeks and hay smoked tomatoes – all made from the WFO!
* On day 2, make a bouquet garni with the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. This simply involves wrapping these together with string and dropping them in to the hot pot – just before cooking.
Wood Fired Oven Equipment
Large cast iron pot with lid.
Trim the beef cheeks, and place into a covered container along with the red wine, 2-3 thyme sprigs and the two bruised garlic. Crack some pepper over the mix and place into the fridge to marinate for about 18-24 hours.
Heat up the wood fired oven. Aim for around 180 to 200oC on the floor of the oven. Also keep the flames up a little.
Place cast iron pot and lid in the WFO and get really hot while you prepare the ingredients. I set these aside on a bakers tray and take this all out to the WFO to cook.
Remove the Beef cheeks from its long marinade. Throw out the bruised garlic. Retain the red wine and the thyme though. Pat the cheeks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add a dash of oil to the hot cast iron pan and sear both sides of the cheeks. Takes about 6 minutes or so. I place the pot back in to the WFO near the flames so the beef cheeks gets licked by fire during this process. Make sure you get both sides lovely and brown. Remove the cheeks from the pot and set aside.
Add a dash of oil back to the pot, and render the bacon pieces until browned. About 5 minutes. Remove onions from the pot and add the mushrooms for a few minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Add another light dash of oil to the pot if needed, and add the onions, celery and carrot to the pot. Hopefully, the lovely brown caramelisation of the beef will still be evident in the pot, these will help colour the ‘soffritto’ you are now cooking. Cook until these start to caramelise. Add the extra chopped garlic.
Now the magic part (because it smells so divine when bubbling) – add the red wine and thyme marinade to the pot. I add the bay leaf here, and some water – perhaps 3/4 of a cup. Place the pot back in to the WFO for a few minutes – near the flame to heat up to a simmer. Pour yourself a glass of red to celebrate getting this far.
Once the pot is bubbling – you will be enjoying an amazing warm earthy red wine smell over the yard. Carefully add the beef cheeks and submerge into the bubbling goodness. Add the smoked pulled pork if you have some and all pre cooked ingredients. Add the bouquet garni into the pot.
Place the pot back into the oven without the lid for about 30 minutes. Again to kiss the dish with fire. I keep it fairly close to the flame. Remove and place the lid on the pot and place back into the WFO, this time away from the flames in a cooler part of the oven.
Sit and relax and ponder your fine work. After an hour or so, remove the pot and check the liquid levels. Add a little more water if required.After about 3 hours or so, the beef cheeks will be delightfully tender. Remove the bouquet garni, and add in the red wine vinegar. This step is important. It gives the final dish a lovely slightly acid taste – which balances the dish out really well. Try it and you will see what I mean.
Add in the finely cut lemon or orange zest. Gently break up the beef cheeks. You can leave them as larger chunks – or ‘pull’ into fine strands. Season with salt and pepper to suit.
I like to serve this with potato mash – also cooked in the WFO. I also like to serve with broccolini, leaks and hay smoked tomatoes – all cooked in the WFO while the Beef cheeks are cooking.
This is a seriously good dish – if I say so myself! Family favourite at our place. Easy, fun and just damn delicious!
If you try it – Let me know what you think.
Check out this recipe on my podcast, where I discuss cooking this dish at my wood fired oven.