On Saturday I received an email from my mom, telling me she had just bought 6 beautiful pork hocks and that she wanted to make them. Could she come over and we cooked them together?
Even thought my mom lives a mere 10 minutes away, we don’t spend that much time cooking together – not like we use to. So, I grabbed the phone and we made plans for a Sunday day cooking marathon. We had a busy day ahead of us, since we had quite a bit to cook up - pound cakes, as well as Polenta (to go with the pork hocks) and I was making my grandmothers “Insalata Russa” (Russian salad).
Now pork hocks are right up there with those cuts of meats that at one time or another the butcher use to give them away for FREE! Remember beef/pork shanks? Before they got rich and famous with chef and now this normally inexpensive cut of meat can cost you a pretty penny? Well pork hocks, still can be bought without having to break the bank, and my mother was right, as soon as I say them, they looked especially pretty.
Pork hocks are from the shoulder part of the pig. It is parallel to pork shanks with crosses cuts. It is well known for its tenderness and rich flavor. It is also flavorful and is loaded with irresistible aroma. Since this piece generally consists of much skin, tendons and ligaments, it requires long cooking through stewing or braising to be made palatable.
That is why in this recipe we used the pressure cooker to give it a head start. If you are not a fan of the pressure cooker or don’t owe one, you can still make this, but be prepare to cook it for at least 3- 4 hours. Maybe getting that pressure cooker sounds good about now eh? The beauty is that the first step in cooking is putting the hocks in the pressure cooker and the throwing the vegetables in there, no need to peel them, simply cut the up and dump.
We decided to serve it with Polenta, because a) my mother was craving it and b) it was all about having the right side dish to soak up all that yummy sauce.
SLOW BRAISED PORK HOCKS IN BEER
- 6 Pork hocks
For the cooking in the pressure cooker:
- Water (enough to cover the hocks in the pan)
- 2-3 garlic cloves – unpeeled and mashed
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 onion – roughly chopped up
- 2 leeks (washed)
- 1 large carrot – chopped
- salt and pepper – to taste
For braising and final cooking:
- 2- 3 tablespoon of vegetable/canola oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 leek, washed and diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 2-3 cloves of mince garlic
- 1 teaspoon each of chopped fresh oregano, rosemary and thyme
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 cup of beer (ale, dark beer is best)
- 2 cups of reserved cooking broth
- 1 bouillon cube (may not need)
- 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise mixed in with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Place the hock/shanks, onion, garlic, celery, cloves, pepper, leeks, carrot and water in a pressure cooker. Simply lock on the lid and bring to pressure over high heat, about 7 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-high and cook for 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Gently release any remaining pressure and slowly and CAREFULLY open up the pot.
Test the hocks - they should be fork tender. Remove and place in a dish and put aside. Strain the cooking broth from the vegetables and set aside – you should have about 2 cups – approximately.
In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan, pour the vegetable/canola oil and heat up over high heat. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. The fresh herbs and mix together until onions are translucent. A this point, season with salt and pepper.
Add the pork hock and coat them with the vegetables. Add the beer, the reserved broth and bring to a boil. At this point taste the liquid and make sure to adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and if needed you can add the bouillon cube.
Once you bring it to a boil, lower it to medium heat, cover and cook for approximately 2 hours, making sure that you stir it from time to time, and watching the liquid reduce to a nice thick consistency.
At end of 2 hours, check and by this time the hocks meat should be falling of the bone.
If you have an immersion blender, now it’s the time to use it. Add the mayo-mustard mix and blend the sauce until medium smooth (you want to make sure it still has a bit of consistency). You can also do this in a regular blender.
Cook a bit more, about 5 more minutes and then prepare to have everyone at your table get dirty when they start to use their finger to get every-last-bit of goodness on this plate.