I am currently enamoured of, amongst other things, ham hocks. Look at that photo and it's not hard to see why. They are lovely juicy things, full of flavour and very cheap. They give abundantly to the home cook without a lot of effort, requiring generally only that you give them time to cook.
Simmered with herbs and a few vegetables they provide moist meat and a pot of stock for soups or risotto and this is the way I normally cook one. But I read somewhere of Mario Batali, the New York chef and writer, serving up slow roasted hock and I have had a hankering for that ever since. In my mind's eye it was crispy and sticky and juicy - surely a simple enough thing to produce?
So this Saturday I bought not one but two hocks from Silfield Farm shop, the idea being to have one with garlic potatoes and a poached egg for a fairly decadent Sunday night supper and then have the other cold in lunchboxes for a couple of days with some crispy salad. But then I bottled it.
I'd made a fairly ordinary stir fry with mussels and clams Saturday night that should have been fabulous and suddenly I was worried that I was going off half cocked again and would end up having another ordinary dinner and daily reminders of the disapppointment till the second one was finished. The second hock went into the freezer.
Shouldn't have worried - it worked brilliantly. The thyme and onions gradually melted into an unctuous mess in the base of the pan, the cider gave the meat a nice stickiness without being particularly sweet and the final blast of heat made the skin golden and crisp.
Slow Roasted Ham Hock
1 unsmoked ham hock, about 1kg in weight
3 or 4 onions, peeled and thickly sliced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves shredded off the stalks
1 tbspn olive oil
100ml dry cider
Salt and pepper
Wash the hock. Heat the oven to Gas 2. Put the olive oil into the base of a roasting pan then cover with the sliced onions and thyme leaves. Add some salt and pepper and mix it all together with your hands. You should have a layer of onions about half an inch thick. Put the hock on top and season lightly. Spoon over a little cider then loosely cover the pan with foil.
Put the pan into the oven and cook for about two and a half hours, basting with the cider every half an hour.
Remove the foil and turn the heat up to Gas 7 and cook for another 20-30 minutes till the skin is all golden and crisp.
Rest for 20 minutes then slice and eat with a pile of onions.
Completely amazing. And just enough left for lunch Monday.
Not to mention one that's now in the freezer in need of a plan... Ideas?