Sometimes, a mouthwatering food and wine partnership comes about through pairing contrasting textures in the dish and the drink. This recipe is all about comforting softness: the sweet, gelatinous quality of the pork cheeks; the gentle toothsome satisfaction of the farro; the tenderness of the baby veggies; and the warming heartiness of the broth. You need a wine with some brightness, some juicy acidity, maybe even some light, snappy tannins to cut through all that somnolence. A pinot noir would be good - especially if it's from a cooler climate vineyard, or made in a refreshing rosé style, or both - but the deep savoury quality of the pork and the farro call for a pinot meunier, a red wine with a little more earthiness and undergrowth lurking deep in its flavour profile. Meunier is usually blended with chardonnay and pinot noir to make sparkling wine, but Australia also has a long history of turning this grape into a light but satisfying dry red.
The heartiness of this slow-cooked winter dish calls for a light dry red that is savoury and earthy but has a touch of acidity.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 pork cheeks (220gm each), trimmed (see note)
- 2 onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
- 250 ml white wine
- 3 litres (12 cups) chicken stock
- ½ bunch thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 black peppercorns
- 110 gm farro perlato (see note)
- 1 bunch each baby carrots and baby turnips (about 8 each), trimmed
- 12 baby leeks
- 150 gm silverbeet, trimmed, coarsely chopped
- 1Heat oil in a large saucepan or casserole over high heat, add pork cheeks and cook, turning once, until golden (3-5 minutes). Remove pork cheeks from pan and set aside, reduce heat to medium, add onion, carrot, celery and leek to pan and stir occasionally until golden (5-7 minutes). Deglaze pan with wine and reduce by half (2-3 minutes). Add cheeks, stock, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until cheeks are tender (1½-2 hours).
- 2Remove cheeks from stock and reserve. Strain stock into a clean saucepan (discard solids), bring to the boil over medium heat, add farro and cook until almost tender (15-20 minutes). Add baby carrots and turnips and stir until starting to soften (3-5 minutes). Add baby leeks and cook until leeks start to soften (2-3 minutes), return cheeks to stock, stir through silverbeet, cook until wilted (1-2 minutes) and season to taste.
- 3Divide vegetables, farro and pork among bowls, ladle over broth and serve immediately.
Note Pork cheeks may need to be ordered ahead from specialty butchers. Farro perlato is available from select delicatessens. If unavailable, substitute pearl barley. Drink suggestion by Max Allen
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