There’s a show on the Travel Channel called…. Well, I can’t remember, but it’s with Chef Andrew Zimmern. The premise is that Chef Andrew travels around and eats tons of funky stuff. Many items look interesting, but are, well, let’s just say, not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an enormous fan of unusual foods and uncommon cuts of meat, but I do draw the line at some of the questionable things Chef Andrew samples. But when I saw a post on the Gram for beef cheeks, I was immediately excited.
Being out of the restaurant industry means I can’t just pick up the phone and order anything I want. This puts me in the same boat as the rest of y’all as far as sourcing unusual items like beef cheeks, shrimp paste, tamarind paste, etc. Yes, I know the internet solves this problem, but what a hassle. My kids swear by Amazon; meanwhile, I’m still waiting for semolina ordered three weeks ago. Sure, the internet is soooo convenient. I call BS!
The post was from a new San Marco butcher shop called Cline’s Custom Meats. As I try to spend one afternoon a week in the ’Ville, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I darkened the doors of their protein packed palace of good eats.
On my first visit, the familiar “Chef” greeted me. It took me a second to recognize the guy, but when I did, I was pleased. The owner Joe and his wife Milouda are vendors at the Fernandina Beach Market Place, offering wild caught Alaskan salmon, crab legs and some of the sweetest sea scallops you will ever stuff in your happy little gullets. I had no idea they’d opened a butcher shop, and a sparkling clean one at that. I immediately asked for beef cheeks. I couldn’t resist the ribeyes either. Then Milouda showed me the Merguez sausage she’d just stuffed. You think I could pass those up? NO, SIR!
For the cheeks I opted for a Northern Thai-style red curry. It’s a very straightforward preparation. Don’t sweat it if you can’t find a few items. Just use your Cheffed-Up cooking knowledge and make substitutions as I have so cleverly done. P.S. Make your own curry paste—you will be amazed by the difference.
Chef Bill’s Thai Beef Cheek Red Curry
• 1-1/2 lb. trimmed beef cheeks
• 1 tbsp. sesame oil
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 3 tbsp. red curry paste, homemade is best
• 2 oz. rice wine
• 1/2 bunch cilantro
• 3 stalks lemongrass, bruised
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 3 star anise pods
• 1 lime, quartered
• 4 red potatoes
• 1 tbsp. fish sauce (more if you like)
• 2 tbsp. tamari sauce
• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 bok choy, sliced with leaves separated from stalk
1. Cube the beef into 1-2” pieces.
2. Heat a brazier with oils and brown beef with star anise and cinnamon stick. Remove beef and spices.
3. Deglaze pan with wine, return beef and add lemongrass, lime, fish coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, put in a 325˚F oven for one hour.
4. Add the potatoes and bok choy stalks and cook another hour. Add chopped cilantro, bok choy leaves; adjust seasoning.
5. Serve with jasmine rice.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!