Chef Jason Bangerter’s Braised Canadian Beef Cheeks-Creamy Polenta-Crispy Tasty Bits

When Jason agreed to share a recipe as part of the Chefs #LoveCDNBeef recipes featuring Canadian Beef, we had a little back and forth on what cut of beef he would use.  “Might do tongue, liver or cheek. What about veal sweet breads? ORRR would you prefer something more mainstream like rib eye?”

I responded “screw mainstream!  I warned them we’d be playing odd bits ;-> “   “Them” being you of course, my kind and gentle readers, who are generally not-so-mainstream. And that’s one of the many reasons I love you!  Besides, mmmm tasty tasty odd bits!

Chef Jason Bangerter’s Braised Canadian Beef Cheeks-Creamy Polenta-Crispy Tasty Bits

Jason served a version of this recipe at the Celebrity Chefs of Canada event in Ottawa last spring and I’m honoured he is sharing it with us!  “I think this is a great representation of Canadian Beef!”, Jason said when he sent it to me and I totally agree!  “The dish made some big noise with elk but I think will make bigger moo’s using Canadian Beef!  The key is to braise until super tender.  Reduce the sauce to a tasty glaze and prepare the garnishes with extra care & love.”

A couple of quick notes before you get the recipe:

  • this is a braising dish, which by now you (and I) have realized means you need  blocks of time  while it cooks. You don’t have to do anything, but you should probably be around.
  • You can braise this a day or two early, and finish later.  That actually works great, just braise and finish the dish the night you are serving.
  • the Crispy Tasty Bits are addictive.  Make extra if you have kitchen helpers, otherwise they will eat them all before you get them on the plate!
  • Because I had some scheduling issues, Jason was kind enough to answer questions via twitter, so I have some of his twitter tips through out the recipes. Watch for the little blue bird.
  • Note to Jason: I did try and make all my dice 1cm, but I doubt my performance would get me a gig in your brigade de cuisine at Luma.  However, my rough cutting and your excellent recipe still made an stellar meal!

Braised Canadian Beef Cheeks

Serves 2-4

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs Beef cheeks
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion 1 cm diced
  • 1 large carrot 1 cm diced
  • 1/2 leek 1 cm diced
  • 2 shallots 1 cm diced
  • 2 bulbs of garlic halved
  • ½ tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup flour for dusting
  • 2 cups Full body red wine
  • ½ cup ruby port
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 stems flat leaf parsley
  • 3-4 star anise
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or liquid honey
  • 2 cups Beef stock
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • Kosher Salt to taste


twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter on preparing beef cheeksLeave the cheeks large. Don’t cut up like a stew.  Make sure to take the silver skin off.  Skin off before. But don’t worry about the silver skin. If it’s cooked properly most wouldn’t even know it was there. The only thing the silver skin will do is make the meat tough or had to chew if the skin is thick. Most small pieces just melt away. Have fun.

Heat the oil in a large braising pan.

Season the cheeks with salt and pepper sear golden brown on all  sides. Remove the cheeks to a plate.

Pour off 2/3 of the fat from the braising pan.

Add butter to the pan and sweat the vegetables, stirring occasionally (8-10 minutes).

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often for two minutes.

Dust the cooked vegetables with the flour. Cook another 5 minutes.

Deglaze with the port and wine, add herbs, spices and sugar.

Slowly reduce wine by half.

Pre heat the oven to 300F.

Return the cheeks to the pan, add stock, season and bring to a simmer.

Cover with foil or a lid and cook at 300F for 5-6 hours or until meat is tender and easy to pierce.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter on cooking time – It just has to be super tender & you should be able to pierce it with your finger.

Remove the cheeks from the pan. Strain the solids from the braising liquid.

Reduce the braising liquid to a rich glossy sauce consistency.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter answers “Can I braise today serve tomorrow? Dinner at 12 am seems a touch late.”  – You can braise days in advance. No prob. Store the meat in the strained sauce. Air tight and keeps the meat moist.  Reduce sauce, heat cheeks in. Add red wine if over reduced. Should be a nice sauce consistency. Add a little butter if needed.

Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.


Creamy Polenta

This was my first attempt making polenta and it felt a little stiff, so I asked Jason what to do.

Serves 2-4

  • 1.5 cups cornmeal coarse ground
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 3 cups Milk
  • 1 cup 35% cream
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Grated parmesan
  • Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Making Polenta

In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the cream and milk and heat over medium-high heat to a simmer.

Add the salt, and whisk the mixture until frothy.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter on how much salt? (I used 1t) – I always say salt is to taste.  Everyone is diff.  If you are adding parmesan to the finished product it is better to go a little lighter on the salt.  I always teach to taste before you serve.  You can always add a little more before you serve it.  If you add too much salt at the beginning you can’t take it out.

Slowly add the polenta and continue to whisk the mixture as it comes to a boil.  Continue whisking for an additional 5 minutes.

Making Polenta

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan.

Stir every 5 minutes until the cornmeal is completely cooked and tender, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Making Polenta

Finish with fresh grated parmesan, cracked black pepper, olive oil and butter.  Sometimes it a nice chance to add a tbsp. of crème fraiche just before serving.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter on if I had overworked the polenta because it was so stiff – Polenta just needed a little more liquid. It is the same as cooking a hot cereal.  Cream of wheat 🙂  You really can’t over work it or over cook it.  The trick is adding enough moisture to loosen it up.  You just needed to add more milk, stock or even butter.  It should be the consistency of ice cream or risotto.  Smooth, creamy….

Crispy Tasty Bits

The crispy bits are to be sexy and crispy… keep the parsley leaves whole. Tear the bread. You can shallow fry all of it in clear butter separately. Even the mac nuts.

Serves 2-4

  • 3 tbsp duck fat or clarified butter
  • 3 tbsp thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 tbsp picked thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley
  • 1 cup small dice or torn crusty day old bread
  • 1 tbsp toasted macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp parmesan
  • Kosher salt, cracked black pepper and grated black truffle to taste

Crispy Tasty Bits Prep

Heat the fat in a shallow sauté pan.

Add the bread and fry until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towel to absorb excess fat. Season with salt, fresh ground black pepper and grated parmesan cheese while still hot.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter on why my bread absorbed all my goose fat – You are making a traditional crouton.  Fried in clear butter or even veg oil.  All milk solids need to be removed (clear butter) and the butter needs to be hot before cooking.  It is good practice to test one piece before throwing them all in.  Get the temp right and carry on.

Gently fry the garlic until golden brown and crispy. Remove and place on the paper towel.

Fry the parsley, whole Italian flat leaf. In really quick and out onto paper towel.

Mix all the ingredients together and season well.

Sprinkle onto the braised meat  before serving.

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue1_0@chefbangerter Should all be placed like a little garden on top of the cheek before serving. 🙂


Chef Jason Bangerter’s Braised Canadian Beef Cheeks-Creamy Polenta-Crispy Tasty Bits


An amusing aside:  As you can see from all the twitter tips from @chefbangerter, I was a bit high maintenance on this particular dish, and he was very kind and patient with me. It was my first time making polenta, and we had a bit of a challenge finding Beef Cheeks which meant the window of time I had blocked to prepare the recipe was spent shopping for beef cheeks!

After a couple of butchers offered to special order them, and finding one that had them frozen, we finally got fresh ones at Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market. Where I caused some stress asking the butcher to remove the silver skin.  He suggested I could do it after the dish cooked, but I was insistent because Jason told me to.  He did the top layer, then I did the rest at home.

But it was worth it!  The dish was great and we served this with a big red and had ourselves a romantic dinner for 2 (if you read the last recipe you’ll note a theme), but we also had left overs for lunch the next day and even more polenta than that. The Crispy Tasty Bits got snacked on almost before they got on the plate!

Notethis post is part of my Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador series .  For more information on my relationship with Canada Beef Inc read about my Foodie Adventure: I’m a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador. #LoveCdnBeef and my disclosure statement

Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

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