31. March 2014 · Comments Off on Where Once Again We Prove Pork Rules · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , , , ,

Chinese country-style pork ribsOne of the challenges of getting groceries from the co-op is that the protein selection of the week is generally beyond our control. And sometimes we end up with cuts we’ve never cooked with before, or have only used rarely. Here, it was country-cut pork ribs. Which aren’t really ribs proper, but are from the area between the loin and the shoulder blade. The ones I got were individually cut, a long thick strip which I split into two pieces each. The total weight of the package was just short of two pounds.

I’d tried making these before, and you really can’t treat them like you would spare ribs or baby backs. Honestly, the way they were packaged I thought they were St. Louis cut spare ribs, so when I opened them up, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them work for my intended use. I’d decided to attempt Chinese-style pork spareribs, which are generally made with belly cuts. Lots of fat to render and keep things from getting leather-tough despite long cooking times. Which I wouldn’t necessarily have here.

What the hell. Onward! More »

27. March 2014 · Comments Off on In Which We (Pork) Knuckle Down and Get to Cooking. · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , , , ,

Roasted Pork HocksIn Germany, it’s Schweinshaxe. To the Poles, it’s golonka. The Czechs call it kolenko. The Austrians, Stelze. Any place where pig is the primary domestic meat, you’ll find a variation of this dish. Basically, it’s unsmoked pork hock – the cut just below the ham – marinated or cooked in aromatics and roasted, frequently with a beer glaze.

This is a rustic dish, to be sure. A big hunk of meat, still on the bone, browned and glistening. It begs for serving along with other Eastern-European accompaniments: braised cabbage, potatoes or potato dumplings, spaetzle, pickled beets, coarse brown mustard, dark rye bread, sauerkraut, and so on. Put the wine glasses away, too. A Czech pilsner or German Hellesbock is the perfect beverage for this.

Some prefer to slow-roast this dish. If you can find pork hocks unsmoked with the skin still on them, that may be the way to go. The only ones I can easily get my hands on are skinless with just a little bit of fat on the outside, and slow-roasting would dry them out way too much. So, I simmer them with aromatics prior to roasting. As a side benefit, you get a good quart’s worth of flavorful pork stock at the end. One major point – make sure you get fresh pork hocks, not smoked ham hocks. Ask your butcher. Ham hocks are salty and dry-cured, and best left for soups and greens.

If you can get skin-on, then I recommend singeing them over an open flame to remove any stray hairs (it happens) and then roasting them at 300°F, basting with the alternative basting liquid at the end of the recipe until the outside is bronze and crispy, and the meat is tender and just about falling off the bone, about 2½ to 3 hours.

You will need:
2 large fresh (unsmoked) pork hocks
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp whole caraway seed
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp whole juniper berries (optional)
1 large peeled carrot, cut into 2″ chunks
1 peeled parsnip, cut into 2″ chunks
1 rib celery, cut into 2″ chunks
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsely (or 1 tsp quality dried flakes)
2 cloves garlic, chopped

For the glaze:
1 cup dark lager (amber lager, marzen – more malty than hoppy)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp stock from the cooked hocks
1 tsp crumbled dry sage leaf (not ground)
Salt

Place hocks and salt into a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add just enough water to cover, place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gently rolling boil, and skim off any foam from the top of the cooking liquid. It will take about 5 minutes for the pot to stop foaming.

Add bay leaf, peppercorns, caraway seed, juniper (if using), garlic, onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, and parsley. Return to a rolling boil, then reduce heat, cover, and maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 2 to 2½ hours, until meat is almost falling off the bone. Remove from pot and heat oven to 375°F.

Whisk beer to remove most of the carbonation, add honey, and heat until honey dissolves easily. Add sage and stock from the cooking pot and mix. Season with salt to taste.

Transfer hocks to a baking dish just large enough to hold them without touching. Pour over glazing liquid and place in oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, basting frequently. Remove to a plate, tent with foil, and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Alternately:
If you’re roasting skin-on hocks, use this for your basting liquid. Combine peppercorns, garlic, sage, caraway, beer, honey, 1/4 cup of chicken broth/bouillon, 1 tsp dehydrated onion flakes, bay leaf, parsley and optional juniper berries and heat until honey is dissolved. Season with salt to taste. Place hocks in baking pan just big enough to hold them without touching, pour over liquid, and baste every 15-20 minutes while cooking.

Pork Stock:
Remove stock pot of cooking liquid to the sink and place it in a cold or ice-water bath, changing water and stirring until the stock has cooled. Pour into a storage container, straining out the solids with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Refrigerate or freeze for later use for soups, beans, or braising.

Serve with spicy brown mustard on the side. Serves 4 deboned, or two really hungry people bone-in.