Dan is a man of few words, but they’re always important. Gain all you can from his answers below to life’s true questions.
1) What is one of your earliest food memories?
Tuna Noodle Casserole. Love you Mom.
2) What is your favorite thing to eat at 4505 Meats?
Chicharrones and coffee.
3) If someone offered you 1 million dollars and the only stipulation was that you had to dedicate the next two years to studying any subject of your choice, what would it be?
4) If you had the option, where would you like to visit and why?
The International Space Station. I’d like to eat floating foods and sleep velcroed to the wall.
5) What is your spirit animal?
The Horseshoe Crab
Paparadelle with Beef Cheek Spring Vegetables
Did you know that beef cheeks and pasta are BFF’s? It’s true. The first time I met them was at Mario Batali’s Babbo in NYC, in his infamous beef cheek ravioli. Fancy! For me, rolling pasta and stuffing ravioli is a little too DIY, (aint nobody got time for that) so I prefer to buy fresh pasta and just make a killer sauce for it. We normally stock Mattarello pastas at the butcher shop, which are far better than anything I could whip up at home.
Beef cheeks are a beautiful but tough muscle that need long slow cooking to get tender. Munching on grass is a national pastime for beef, so the cheek muscle gets worked out all day, every day. Cooking it slow and low breaks down all those tough muscle fibers for a rich, tender result.
For this recipe I started with pretty much a classic beef braise. Normally you might use beef stock and red wine, but I lightened it up a bit with chicken stock and white wine, so the more delicate spring vegetables could shine through later. After braising the cheeks I strained the cooking liquid and let everything cool overnight. The next day I picked up some peppy looking spring veg at the Divisadero farmers market (and said hi to my attractive and talented colleagues working there), and came home to finish off the dish. The shredded cheek meat got heated up with the cooking liquid. The spring veg was prepped and added to the pot. A few spoonfuls of crème fraiche gave everything a nice creamy richness and some acidity. After cooking the fresh pasta, I tossed everything together and put it in my face. BFF’s reunited, and it feels so good!
For the Braise:
-2 beef cheeks, about 2 lbs
-salt and pepper to taste
-3 tablespoon neutral oil
-2 medium carrots, chopped
-2 medium shallots, chopped
-4 celery stalks, chopped
-2 medium leeks, trimmed of dark green leaves and chopped
-5 garlic cloves
- 3 springs thyme
-2 tablespoons tomato paste
-1/3 bottle dry white wine
-1 pint chicken stock
Preheat your oven to 275°. Pat the cheeks dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat up oil in a heavy Dutch oven or wide steel saucepan (don’t use non-stick!) over medium heat until it shimmers. Sear the cheeks all over, on all sides. Don’t rush this step! Go slow over medium heat, and really wait for a nice deep brown crust to develop. Jenga the cheeks in the pan so you can get a sear on all sides. Don’t be tempted to jack up the heat, or you’ll burn the nice brown bits that should be sticking to the bottom of your pan. (If you’re using a nonstick pan, you fail. There will be no stuck brown bits and your pasta will be sad.)
Once the cheeks are really, really brown on all sides, remove them and add the carrots, shallots, leeks, garlic, thyme, and a liberal pinch of salt. Bring the heat up to medium-high, and start scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. The salt and heat will bring moisture out of the veg, which will deglaze your pan, aka unstick all the stuck on brown crud that tastes so good.
After the veg starts to sweat off some of its moisture, add the tomato paste and keep stirring. You’re going to start developing another layer of crud on the pan (the French call it fond, which sounds nicer I guess). Once you’ve built up a solid layer, hit it with the white wine and stock, and get to scraping again.
Once everything is bubbling away nicely, put the cheeks back into the pot. You want the liquid to come about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the meat.
Now either place the lid on slightly askew, so that some moisture can escape, or cover loosely with foil, and pop into the oven for about 5 hours, or until a knife inserted into the cheeks can be removed with no resistance.
Set the meat aside on a plate, and strain the sauce through a strainer or colander, discarding all the solids. When the cheeks are cool enough to handle, shred them with two forks or your hands if you’re a boss, discarding any tough or overly fatty bits. Once everything’s room temp, put it in the fridge overnight.
For the pasta
1/3 cup shelled English peas
1 stalk green garlic, thinly sliced
2 stalks spring onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon butter
1 dozen morel mushrooms
1 dozen crimini mushrooms (use all morels if you’re rich)
6-7oz crème fraiche
24oz wide fresh pasta (such as Mattarello pappardelle)
2-3oz grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 bunch chives, sliced super thin
Wake up and do your sun salutations or whatever. Take your cooking liquid out of the fridge and scrape off the layer of fat that will have formed on top, and discard. Take some of your shredded meat and heat it up with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid. Toast some toast, fry and egg, and make yourself the best breakfast you’ll have all week. Add some leftover braised greens and you’re a culinary Jedi Master. Then go about your day until it’s pasta time.
When you’re ready to rock, start the meat and cooking liquid simmering in a pot over medium-low heat. The goal here is to soften the meat up further and reduce the sauce to a flavorful and thick cup or so of liquid.
While that’s happening get a big pot of water boiling. Add plenty of salt until it tastes like seawater. (Be a G and quickly dip your finger into the water and taste it, to tell if it’s salty enough. It doesn’t really hurt and it makes you look like a boss.)
Blanch your peas in the water until just tender, less than a minute. Immediately plunge into ice water to stop them from cooking—this also keeps them super green.
Sauté your spring onion and green garlic in half the butter and a couple glugs of olive oil until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Then add to the meat and sauce.
Once that pan is empty sauté mushrooms in the other half of the butter and some more olive oil until just beginning to brown and soften. Add to the meat and sauce. Add the crème fraiche to the sauce and stir to combine.
Meanwhile cook your pasta in the same salty water you cooked the peas in. Just before its done add it to the sauce and stir everything together for a minute as the pasta finishes cooking. Take the pasta off the heat and add the grated cheese. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve garnished with the sliced chives. Rejoice!