Recipe: Braised Iberian Pork Cheek with Port Wine and Honey

Carrillada is a melt in your mouth, get up and dance, and smack yourself in the head for not having eaten this earlier type of food.  Yes, it is that good. What is carrillada, you ask? Simply put, it is cheek– beef cheek is carrillada de ternera, pork cheek is carrillada de cerdo, lamb cheek is carrillada de cordero…etc. And despite their differences in taste, all carrilladas are delicious.

Braised Pork Cheek

Delicious Iberian Pork Cheek

The cut of meat is unique because it is quite meaty but surprisingly lean– a rare marvel for many who expect it to be either fatty or tough. It does need to be braised, slow cooked over a low heat for at least a few hours, but the end result is a fork- tender piece of meat that is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in Spain, and that is saying a lot!

Here is a delicious recipe for pork cheek (carrillada de cerdo) which I’ve adapted from the excellent Spanish food blog and cookbook author Recetas de Rechupete. His site is incredible, by the way!

Braised Iberian Pork Cheek with Port Wine and Honey

Ingredients:

  • 12 iberian pork cheeks (about 1 kilo or 2 lbs)
  • 1 onion
  • 6 shallots
  • 1 green apple
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of port wine (a very sweet dessert wine)
  • 24 fingerling potatoes (or 4-5 normal potatoes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley (fresh if possible)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of beef stock

Recipe:

  1. Smash the garlic in a mortar and pestle and add in the thyme, honey, parsley and a tablespoon of water. Continue to smash some more until you achieve a nice paste.
  2. Pat the pork cheeks completely dry with paper towels and then cover the pork cheeks with the paste and season with kosher salt and pepper. Let them marinate for at least an hour before cooking.
  3. After allowing them to absorb the flavors for about an hour, quickly dredge the pork cheeks in flour (they shouldn’t be coated in flour, just a hint should remain).
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan on a medium high heat.
  5. Sear the pork cheeks (about 30 seconds per each of its 3-4 sides) until all sides are browned.
  6. After each cheek is seared, remove from the pan and reserve.
  7. Dice the onion and red pepper to a small dice.
  8. Peel the shallots and cut each one in half.
  9. Cut the carrots into thin round slices.
  10. Transfer the oil used to sear the meat into a large, heavy pot. Add a little more oil if necessary to completely cover the bottom about 1 cm.
  11. On a low heat, sauté the onions, peppers, shallots and carrots for 15 minutes.
  12. When the vegetables are golden, add the pork cheek and the 2 cups of port wine (any port will do, although there are various varieties of port wine and each will leave you with a slightly different dish)
  13. Add the bay leaf and, over a medium heat, allow everything to reduce 50%, about 15 minutes. Make sure to stir while it is reducing or it will stick.
  14. Peel the potatoes (if using large potatoes cut them into bite size chunks).
  15. Peel the apple and dice it to a medium dice.
  16. Add the beef stock to the pot and cook over a low heat for about 1.5 hours, until the carrilladas are completely tender. Twenty minutes before taking it off the heat add the potatoes and apple to the pot.
  17. When everything is fork tender, take off the heat and serve.

I warn you, if you follow these instructions and make this amazing carrillada, you will probably cry tears of joy. Pork cheek will become your new favorite meat…Your welcome!

Feature Photo by: arbitrarynoun

Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    This sounds fantastic, I just wish I could get pork cheek around here. These sorts of ingredients are hard to come by in a lot of places in the U.S. simply because people perceive them as “icky” or simply not something you would eat, it’s the same story with sweet breads, kidneys, liver, tripe, tongue, heart, etc. It’s a shame :(

    Watching No Reservations has made my realize how much I’m missing out on and how silly a lot of us are for not wanting to try such things.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew, Have you tried asking your local supermarket’s butcher? Sometimes they can special order or save things like that for you. What part of the US do you live in? Good luck!

      • Andrew says:

        I’m in East Texas, regrettably we don’t have any dedicated butcher shops here but we’ve got a couple places with a pretty good meat selection, I’ll ask them and see what they can do, thank you.

        Cheers,
        Andrew

    • Sr Tocino says:

      Heritage Berkshire Pork offers cheeks frozen mail/orderemail.I have bought them and they are good. Also go to a Asian grocery they sell a lot of pork and pork parts.

    • RGSpore says:

      Any mexican grocery store will have pork cheek.

  2. Yum! Sounds delicious. Mario’s mom makes something similar, but calls it “carrillera.” Slightly different, but the same dish!

  3. Michelle says:

    Hehehehe, I’m giving David this recipe so he can cook it. He’s really good at preparing meat dishes, and meat cooked with port wine (like Solomillo al Pedro Ximénez, mmmmm) is one of our top favorites! I’ll let you know how it turns out! ;)

  4. Ann Shaw says:

    This looks delicious and has given me inspiration for a paella recipe for a paella party. Incidentally, have you seen the new paella recipe book by Herraiz – it’s got recipes in there for paella puddings. Have you come across any of these in Spain?

  5. Lynn says:

    I think this is what I had last Fall in Madrid. I was told the meat was from the cheek, and as you say, it was melt in your mouth get up and dance spectacular! How many servings is your recipe?

  6. RGSpore says:

    This was excellent. The meat is dirt cheap. Rub it and leave over night if U want to do it in stages. The pic looks like the meat sits in a bed of mash which the recipe makes no mention of. ..Anyway. I got the pork cheeks from the butcher with the skin off but the fat on. Next time I would trim more of the fat but no biggy. The butcher also removed some of the bumps that are found in the cheeks. I threw in carmalized onions I had laying around. To thicken the sauce as i got down to the 2 min warning I added the 1T:1T flour to butter ball trick. Next time I will add some mustard powder or some grainy mustard to the rub. I’m a huge fan of pork and mustard.

  7. Alan Calder says:

    Lauren, this is a fantastic recipe, easily the best pork cheek that we’ve ever made. This is my second attempt and I’m making a large batch with 40 cheeks (obtained from Morrison’s supermarket at £5.89/Kilo). I like to fillet off the fatty membrane on one side before browning. I tweeked it slightly adding some buerre manie at the end to thicken a little and doing the potatoes separately because we’ll be freezing the dish. I also put the shallots in much nearer the end so that they don’t break up. The cheeks present beautifully on a modern rectangular plate, two per serving. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] with: A robust glass of red wine. If you’d like to make carrillada in your own kitchen, try this recipe by Lauren of Spanish Sabores, and enjoy the smells as you wait for it to [...]

  2. [...] carrillera (braised pork or beef cheek) is always a test of a restaurant’s skill for Ale and I here in [...]

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