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Galtas de Vaca Rostidas | Roasted Beef Cheeks

I was in a local Mexican market recently and noticed “cachetes” at the meat counter. In Mexican Spanish, cachetes refers to cheeks. In Spain, cachetes is usually used as a cutesy kinda thing or to refer to “butt cheeks,” while the more typical word for an animal’s cheeks is “carrilleras.” I prefer the Catalan word “galtas,” perhaps just to muddy up the discussion even further. Whatever you call them, beef and pork cheeks are delicious and a great treat from time to time. They are extremely flavorful, without being gamey, and have an amazing, toothsome, but melt-in-your mouth texture.

This is a strange twist on a standard braising technique. This recipe is adapted from a traditional Catalan recipe that I have seen a few versions of. Instead of searing off the meat and veggies, and adding them into a braise, the ingredients are roasted together, and the liquid added, to turn that into a braise. I was a bit skeptical of the technique when I first read about it, but decided I had to give it a try. The results were so good, that this has become my preferred way to cook beef and pork cheeks.

Pork cheeks are traditionally just as common as beef cheeks with this recipe. They can be handled more or less the same, except that, as pork cheeks are generally much smaller, you will almost certainly leave them whole. They should be cleaned, trimmed, and cooked exactly the same way.

The traditional Catalan recipe finishes the sauce with Rancio wine. I never see these traditional Catalan sweet wines in the USA, but port makes an excellent substitute and a fantastically flavorful sauce.

Like all braised meats with rich sauces, you can serve with polenta or mashed potatoes, or some kind of grain, to soak up the sauce. If not, at least be sure to have some good bread for mopping.


3 lbs beef cheeks

2 Tbsp oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 onions, peeled and rough chopped

1 leek, cleaned and rough chopped

2 large ripe tomatoes, rough chopped

4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2 bay leaves

2 or 3 sprigs of thyme

1 sprig of oregano

1 cup red wine

3 or 4 cups beef or pork stock (make sure it’s hot when adding to the recipe)

For the picada

1 cup of port wine (or other sweet, fortified wine)

¼ cup of almonds

3 cloves garlic

1 small slice lightly toasted peasant bread

1. Prepare the meat: Trim off excess fat and connective tissue from the cheeks. You don’t have to clean off every last bit of fat, but remove large thick fat deposits clinging to the outside.

Cut the cheeks into equally-sized and shaped pieces about 7 or 8 ounces each.

2. In a deep roasting pan, coat the cheeks with the oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 375F oven, and cook until the meat is well browned. When well browned, stir in the onions, leek, tomatoes and garlic. Turn the heat up to 400F and continue roasting until the veggies begin to brown.

3. Stir in the bay leaves, thyme, and oregano, then stir in the wine. Continue roasting in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the wine is almost reduced away (whichever comes first).

4. Stir in the hot stock, then cover the pan with foil or a tight fitting lid. Continue cooking until the cheeks are tender. This will take at least another 1 ½ to 2 hours. Depending on how thick the pieces are and how old the animal was, it can take as long as 3 hours or even a little more. To test the doneness, remove the foil or lid, and just poke with a small, sharp, knife. It will insert, as if going into warm butter when they are ready.

When ready, CAREFULLY remove the cheeks, and arrange in a single layer on a plate to cool down.

5. Finish the sauce: Strain all of the liquid into a wide saucepan and bring the sauce pan up to a simmer. Meanwhile, place all of the picada ingredients into a blender and blend until very smooth. Add the blender contents to the sauce and continue to simmer down. You want the sauce to reduce by at least 1 cup or so in volume. Let the sauce simmer until it begins to thicken a bit and the flavors come together. When you are happy with the consistency, taste it, and adjust the salt, if needed.

You can discard the strained-out vegetables, though I find they are a delicious snack on their own.

6. Finish and Serve: To serve, place the cooled-down cheeks in the sauce. Cover and place on a low flame. Cook just long enough to get the cheeks heated through. Serve the cheeks with a generous amount of sauce and your favorite accompaniments.

You can do everything up through step 5 a day or two in advance, then jump to step 6 when you are ready to serve.

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