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Madeira Braised Veal Cheeks With Creamy Polenta

  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 5 pounds veal cheeks
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups Madeira
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Essence
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 pound cream cheese or Mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  • Using a very sharp knife, trim the extra fat and the tough silverskin from the veal cheeks. You should have approximately 3 pounds of cleaned meat remaining. Transfer the cheeks to a large non-reactive bowl or casserole and add 1 cup of red wine, 1 cup of the Madeira, 1/2 cup of the onions, 1/2 cup of the celery, 1/2 tablespoon of the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and peppercorns. Stir gently to blend and make sure that the meat is covered by the wine, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
  • In a large, ovenproof Dutch oven or rondeau, heat oil over high heat until almost smoking. Remove meat from marinade, pat dry, and season on both sides with some of the salt and pepper. Sear meat in hot oil, in batches if necessary, until well-browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining onion and celery to the pan along with the carrots and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are very soft and beginning to caramelize. Add remaining garlic and cook 2 minutes. Strain marinade and add to pan along with remaining red wine and Madeira. (Discard vegetables). Bring to a boil, skim any foam off top of liquid, and add water, tomato paste, Essence, Italian Essence and crushed red pepper and return to a boil. Add meat and any accumulated juices, stir well, cover tightly and place in the oven. Cook for 4 1/2 to 5 hours, undisturbed, or until cheeks are very tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve over hot polenta.
  • CREAMY POLENTA: In a large, heavy saucepan bring water to boil with salt to taste. While whisking constantly, pour the cornmeal into the water in a steady stream until thoroughly combined. Continue whisking to make certain there are no lumps of unincorporated cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, uncovering frequently to stir.
  • Stir in the heavy cream, cream cheese, and butter and continue to cook, covered, another 20 minutes or so, stirring often. When the polenta is smooth, with no taste of rawness, add salt and pepper to taste (if polenta seems to thick, you may dilute with a bit of water or milk), and serve garnished with the grated cheese.
  • Yield: 6 servings