The humble potato is as Irish as a pint of Guinness. But the Michelin-starred chef and restauranteur JP McMahon, notes in his The Irish Cookbook ($45) that the potato’s association to Ireland only came about within the last 200 years. Missing from the history of Ireland and its cuisine are thousands of years of foraging and cultivating the land for its native provisions.
McMahon’s cookbook contains 480 recipes that utilize the bounties of the country’s land. From seafood to wild game, these recipes take a look at Irish recipes of yore, with a nod towards the future of Ireland’s culinary scene. The recipe for beef cheeks, published below, is a braise made with shelf stable vegetables and an uncommon cut of beef.
Beef Cheeks with Barley and Onions
For the beef cheeks:
4 beef cheeks, cap removed and trimmed of sinew
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 carrots, chopped
2 onions, quartered
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter
A few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
2 cups stout
For the barley and onions:
2 cups beef stock
2 1/2 cups barley
2 onions, halved, skin on
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. To braise the beef cheeks, season the cheeks with sea salt. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the cheeks and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Add the carrots, onions and garlic. After a minute, add the butter and herbs and baste for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are caramelized.
3. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and discard any excess fat. Pour the stout and stock over the cheeks until completely submerged. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil and put into the preheated oven for 3 hours.
4. Meanwhile, simmer the barley in a large pan of water over a low heat for 40 minutes until tender. Strain and reserve. Strain the sauce from the cheeks and carrots and keep them warm. Allow the fat to settle and skim it off the top. Heat the sauce in a pan over a high heat for about 15 minutes until reduced by half.
5. Put the onions in a dry pan over a medium–low heat and cook for 18–20 minutes until soft to touch and the edges are blackened. Peel into individual pieces, keeping the lobes intact. Remove any large charred pieces.
6. When ready to serve, melt the butter in the barley and season with sea salt to taste. Spoon the barley over the plates and add the charred onions. Slice the beef cheeks and lay near the onions. Finish with some sauce.
Note: The cheeks can also be cooked in a lower oven at 250°F for 5 hours for a more tender meat.
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