Last winter when I made the cassoulet for a holiday dinner, Kristi had to scour multiple grocery stores helping me find the right ingredients. Oddly, after seeing them in my neighborhood grocery store on pretty much every visit in the previous 3 years, finding pork hocks was nearly impossible. After a couple days of searching in a moment of desperation (because I needed to start cooking that night), I asked Kristi to purchase a package of smoked hocks she found at a store because it looked like the only option. Later that day, I ended up finding the raw hocks I needed, so the package of smoked pig ankles headed into the freezer for use god knows when.
I don’t have skeletons in my closet, but I have lots of animal parts in my freezer, and they haunt me every night. Then I remember all the currants in my cupboard and the nightmares really kick into overdrive.
Anyhoo, I got sick of staring at a pink package of ankles in my freezer but refused to throw them out despite having no idea what to do with them. So, on a Sunday with no other posts in sight, I pulled the package out of the freezer and thawed it on the countertop.
I knew enough about hocks to expect minimal edible meat to come off of these when I was finished cooking them. They really have nothing to offer. With that in mind, I decided to use the hocks to flavor a rice dish and mix the meat into the rice. As usual, it all started with mirepoix.
Sh*tty mirepoix soon to be sh*tty mirepete (when the salty ankles went in). First, I deglazed with a quarter bottle of white wine once the vegetables had become translucent. After a few minutes of the wine reducing, I added the smoked hocks to the pot.
I covered the hocks with a few cups of water and added a little salt and pepper to flavor the broth.
Once the broth got to a low boil, I reduced the heat to low and put the lid on. Since I wanted it to simmer for a while, we headed out for a couple of hours to enjoy the summer and hit the playground.
No pacing this time around; this was a very low concern-level meal for me. I figured it was trash or mouth so if it ended up edible it was really just a bonus. I was possibly a little too under-concerned since I kinda forgot about the funk of a cooking pork hock until we re-entered the apartment. It’s not an awful smell, but it is pretty strong and porky and not exactly what you want your whole apartment smelling like when the AC is blasting and it’s too hot to open windows. Oh, and it looked super sketchy too.
I shut the heat off of the burner and let it cool a bit so the fat would be easier to skim off the top and the hocks would cool enough to pick the meat from. After about an hour of cooling, I strained out the mirepoix and bay leaves, reserving the cooking liquid, then put it back on the stovetop to reduce it a bit. The hocks headed to the windowsill to see if there was any way to photograph them in an appetizing light.
After the foto sesh, I started peeling apart the hocks to mine for meat. The amount of gelatin from the bones and tendons in the hock plus the fat and collagen from the skin makes it a pretty messy process. Plus, I am consistently amazed by how little meat actually can be found on a hock and how you can find a decent amount of meat on some but almost none on others. The one definite is that it will be a horrible mess.
With the cooking liquid reduced, I transferred it to a Pyrex and cooled to room temperature in an ice bath. I tasted a bit to see if I definitely wanted to use it and I would describe the flavor as nearly identical to the smell in our apartment when we got home. Questionable, but had to barrel ahead.
I measured out a half cup of white rice and combined it in a pot with a little over a cup of the cooking liquid and a splash of apple cider vinegar. The idea was that the liquid would give the rice a rich flavor and have the flavors from the mirepoix and smoked hocks. Didn’t make it look less dodgy.
After 20 minutes with the lid on I fluffed up the rice a bit and stirred in all of the meat which left me with this kinda delicious looking pot of food.
Not going to overdo this one, but this was decently tasty (to me) and definitely edible (for anyone else). This was good to eat as-is, but a few shakes of Cholula hot sauce made it very enjoyable. The rice was sticky from the fat and collagen in the pork stock and very rich, most similar to the texture of rice cooked in coconut milk. The bits of pork were tender and tasty with a lot of good smoky barbeque flavor, like bits of smoked pork rib meat. Pretty tasty, despite the funky smells, funky meat, and sticky coating on my hands that has yet to go away.
Right now I have a hogs head thawing in a cooler somewhere in Maine, and all I can think about is whether anyone remembered to put ice on it. If the answer is yes and I remember to take pictures, you got yer next post right there.