Braised Beef Cheeks

4 tbsp (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
4 Ontario beef cheeks, trimmed*
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped celery
2 tbsp (30 mL) cognac
2 cups (500 mL) dry red wine
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 branches lemon thyme
5 dried juniper berries
2 whole star anise
2 cans (28 /796 mL) San Marzano or whole plum tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
1 tsp ( 5 mL) freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) of oil over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper. Add two of the beef cheeks to hot skillet, turning to sear on all sides about 10 minutes; transfer to a platter and repeat with remaining beef.

Add remaining oil to skillet, reduce heat to medium; add onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally, cooking until softened and golden, about 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high; add cognac, scraping any brown bits from skillet until liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bay leaf, garlic, lemon thyme, juniper berries and star anise. Maintain a simmer until liquid reduces by half, about 15 minutes.

Return beef cheeks to skillet, add tomatoes and their juices, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and put in oven to braise until very tender, about 3 hours.

Serve with braised autumn vegetables and potato puree.

Makes 6 servings.

*Note: Beef cheeks can be substituted with 5 lbs (2.3 kg) beef short ribs following the same cooking method.

Source: Chef Joseph Watters, The Little Inn of Bayfield.