Red wine and beef seem to be very compatible, and not just for drinking. Beef cheeks are the facial cheek muscle of a cow. They may look ugly but the meat is lean and tender once it is slow cooked in liquid, and in this case wine and marsala.
Some cooks marinade cheeks in red wine overnight; this will intensify the dark colour and the wine flavour of the final dish. In this recipe wine is added as part of the cooking liquid; the rich taste will still come through so I do not think that the marinade is necessary.
Most Italian recipes suggest using a strong red wine, some also add Marsala (dry). The French do the same and if you have Movida Rustica (Spanish cuisine) by Frank Camorra (the cook) and Richard Cornish (the writer) you will notice that Frank adds Pedro Ximenez sherry to his recipe.
Whether cooked in Italy, France, or Spain the choice of herbs used are the same: bay leaves, rosemary, thyme or sage. Onions, carrots and celery seem to be the common ingredients for what the Italians call the odori (smells), these are the basic vegetables which add ‘smell’ and taste to basic broths and stews.I also added thinly cut orange peel to mine; I do this often with braises.
This dish is so easy. I went out while it was cooking. When I returned I braised some fennel and boiled some potatoes. Polenta and mashed potatoes take a bit more time to cook, but soak up the juices even better.
There were 4 of us.
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
orange or tangello peel from one citrus, thinly cut, no pith
several fresh bay leaves, sage or thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper