This is a bit of a cheat because Mary-Lou Weisman‘s Playing House in Provence is not a food book, essentially; it’s a travel memoirish meditation on what it’s like when you decide as Americans to become a little bit French. You know, the Provence dream. Mary-Lou, who lives in Westport, Ct. is one of my favorite writers.
I’m a little famous for saying, in most wonderful places I visit: What if we come back and spend six months or a year here? I also start reading house prices. Well, Mary Lou has written an interesting book about how she and her lawyer husband Larry decided to do it. The book describes their numerous long vacations living in Provence, taking French lessons there, making friends with the locals, drinking in the sights and sounds of the region in hopes of becoming French. Joys, challenges, fights, contentedness, often told in Mary Lou’s honest wry voice. And while this isn’t a recipe book, it does include one recipe we wanted, Larry’s version of how to make pork cheeks in red wine (recipe follows).
— Faith Middleton
To learn more about Mary-Lou and check out her previous books and memoirs, visit her website.
Larry Weisman’s Pork Cheeks in Red Wine
12 pork cheeks (Not easy to find in an American butcher shop, but a fancy one will have them or get them for you. They’re very expensive, possibly because nobody but you even wants to think about them.)
1 bottle red wine; a Côtes du Rhône or other complex wine
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, leaves removed and cut into quarter-inch cubes
1 tomato, chopped into quarter-inch cubes
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 celery stick, cut into quarter-inch cubes
8-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs tarragon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Parsley for sprinkling
Marinate the pork cheeks in the red wine for 24 hours. (Less is okay, but the butcher says the longer the better).
Drain the pork cheeks, dust them with flour, and reserve the red wine. Gently sear the cheeks in heated olive oil.
Combine the carrot, leek, tomato, onion, garlic, and celery in a hot pan and caramelize on full heat. When caramelized, add the pork cheeks and red wine. Reduce the volume by about half.
Add the chicken stock, herbs, and sugar. Cover and slowly braise for three to four hours on low heat. When the meat is tender, remove the pork cheeks and set them aside.
Further reduce the sauce until it is very thick and with an almost firm texture. Pour sauce over the cheeks. Sprinkle with parsley.
(Recipe note: This dish is excellent served with mashed potatoes, or pureed parsnips, or a hunk of crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. Otherwise guests will be tempted to drink it from their plates.)