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Berkshire Pork Cheeks, Roasted Kabocha Squash, Brussels Sprouts & Honey Glazed Chestnuts

Jeff Harris, Bolsa & Bolsa Mercado, Dallas / March 2012

For 4 servings

Chestnuts:
• 2 lbs. smoked ham hocks
• 1 cup honey
• 16 chestnuts, roasted and peeled
• 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
• salt
• black pepper, freshly ground

  1. Bring ham hocks and 6 qts. water to a boil in large pot; reduce heat to medium; simmer gently 6 hours, occasionally skimming fat and scum from surface; remove from heat; strain through fine chinois into airtight container; reserve ham hocks for another use; cool stock; cover; reserve.

  2. Cook honey in sauté pan set over medium heat until slightly caramelized (about 5 minutes); add chestnuts; stir until coated with honey; stir in red pepper flakes; season; stir in 1 cup reserved ham hock stock; bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium; simmer until chestnuts are softened; remove from heat; cool slightly; reserve.

Pork cheeks:
• 2 Tbsps. canola oil
• salt
• black pepper, freshly ground
• 16  2 oz. Berkshire pork cheeks
• 1 onion, cut into lg. dice
• 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into lg. dice
• 2 lg. carrots, cut into lg. dice
• 2 stalks celery, cut into lg. dice
• 1 tsp. ginger, minced
• 1 tsp. garlic, minced
• 1 tsp. tomato paste
• 2 cups white wine
• 5 sprigs thyme
• 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
• 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
• 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
• 2 dried bay leaves

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in Dutch oven set over medium-high heat; season cheeks; working in batches, cook cheeks until brown on both sides; place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain; reserve.

  2. Drain oil from pan; wipe out; heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same pan over medium-high heat; add onion, leeks, carrots, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes; add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender; stir in tomato paste; cook 2 minutes; deglaze pan with wine; bring to a boil; cook until pan is almost dry; add reserved cheeks, thyme, peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and bay leaves; add reserved ham hock stock to cover; cover; cook until cheeks are tender (about 2 1/4 hours); remove from heat; cool slightly; place cheeks in clean pot; strain braising liquid through fine chinois into pot with cheeks; discard solids; cover pot; refrigerate.

Assembly:
• 2 cups kabocha squash, cut into med. dice
• 2 cups Brussels sprouts, stemmed and halved lengthwise
• 1 cup celeriac, cut into med. dice

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.

  2. Skim fat from surface of braising liquid; remove cheeks; place in large ovenproof sauté pan; reduce braising liquid by 50 percent; pour over cheeks; roast, basting meat occasionally, to glaze (about 10 minutes); remove from oven; reserve (keep warm).

  3. Place squash, Brussels sprouts, and celeriac in sauté pan set over medium-high heat; cook until brown and just softened; add reserved chestnuts; cook 2 minutes; remove from heat (keep warm).

  4. To serve, divide squash mixture evenly between serving plates; place some braised pork cheeks on top of each; spoon sauce over.

What to drink: Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Paso Robles 2009