IBERICO PIG’S CHEEKS
Veal, beef and ox cheeks were meat cuts recommended by Altamiras, who butchered the heads himself before separating out the tongues and brains, then poaching and roasting the cheeks in a wood-fired oven with flavouring mixes, mainly spicy or peppery. Michel Guérard gave beef cheeks a new popularity in French cuisine in the 1980s and in Spain pig’s cheeks have enjoyed a revival since the 1990s, offering a small cushion of meat ideally sized for one person. Additionally fresh Iberico pork cheeks are fairly reasonably priced. Altamiras doesn’t mention them in his book, probably because he salted them along with nearly all his pork cuts except for the offal. I decided to hybridise Altamiras’s recipe with the modernised one which appears in the book, prepared by La Musa de Espronceda in Lavapiés. Chef proprietor Antonio Amago’s main change to the recipe is to braise cheeks in pig’s trotter stock rather than roast them. To that method I reincorporated Altamiras’s sweet and spiced flavours, combining grated apple with a black cardamom infusion and serving the cheeks with a spoonful or two of parsley chickpea potaje and baby onions. This is the kind of food that’s good on a cold winter’s day, so ideal for American and British kitchens where curiously cheeks are overlooked even though their meat is naturally bone free, and fat free if you want them butchered that way.