Monday, August 03, 2009

Ham hock slow cooked in chinese stock

I have a tendency to get excited about a recipe that I haven't tried but which I decide for whatever reason will be fabulous. Got to be said the reasoning is not necessarily logical or particularly well thought out but I will set out on the process full of hope and expectation. Sometimes it must also be said that I have not thoroughly thought through each individual element required to get from raw ingredients to finished fabulousness.

This method of cooking a ham hock was no exception. I've been looking at different ways to use this lovely piggy treat recently and read a couple of restaurant reviews of a hong kong dish described as having flesh slow cooked in stock and crispy skin which sounded divine to me. Crispy pig skin is always a winner! The very idea set me off looking for a recipe - the point of google, surely. But though I found other mentions of it at various restaurants in different countries no one was coming up with details. Frustrating. Then I tried a few different key words and - voila!

I had a recipe. It came from Ezard, a Melbourne restaurant where I had a very fine meal a few years ago. Coincidence? No - definitely a good sign. It was long and detailed and not entirely complicated so ideal then, for a Saturday night special.

It meant starting Thursday night with the making of a master stock and the soaking of the hock to leach any excess salt from the meat. Easypeasy.

Friday I put the hock into the pan of boiling stock put the lid on the pan and tucked it into a very low oven for a couple of hours. Turned off the heat but left the pan where it was. You can see that we're not talking massively complex operations here. But the smell, oh the lovely smell of gently spiced stock filled the flat with perfume and me with anticipation.

Next morning I took the pot from the oven and it was still just warm. The hock had taken on the rich dark hue of the stock and wobbled slightly when touched. I lifted it gently from the poaching liquor and, with no effort at all, slid the bone out from the centre of the meat. Perfect. I wrapped it very tightly in clingfilm to make a perfect dense mini ham shape and popped it into the fridge.

And that was when I realised that my plan was flawed. The next step involved thickly slicing the pressed meat so that it could be deep fried to make the skin crispy. The whole point of the dish - rich flavoured meat surrounded by crispy skin. But I do not own a deep fryer and I know from bitter experience that my hob does not reach sufficiently high temperatures to cook things well submerged in oil. All it does is make them nasty.

Oh dear.

Thought about it for a while. Decided that I would shallow fry thick slices to at least attain the maximum unctuousness in the meat, and hope I might get an odd bit of crispy. First half worked... And it was just great - beautifully flavoured meat, very moist and not a great deal of fat, and though the skin was the opposite of crispy it was juicy and slippy with just a tiny bit of resistance.

So good in fact the man wants more, soon. It will be a pleasure.

Slow cooked asian flavoured ham hock

3 L Water
250 ml light soy sauce
500 ml shao hsing wine Chinese cooking wine
200 g yellow rock Sugar
40 g fresh Ginger, thickly slices
5 Cloves Garlic, unpeeled but squashed
4 star anise
3 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon quills
10 g dried mandarin peel
1 large ham hock, about 1.5kg or 2 smaller ones, soaked overnight in water
4tbspns sunflower oil

Put all the ingredients except the hock into a large pan and bring to the boil on top of the hob. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

When the stock has cooled refrigerate overnight with the spices still in the liquid to intensify the flavor.

Next day, fish the whole spices out and bring the pan back to the boil.

Drain and rinse the hock and put it into the boiling stock. Cover with a lid.

Put into a low oven, Gas 2/100C/200F and cook, undisturbed for about 3 hours. Turn off the heat but leave the pan in the oven overnight.

Next morning carefully take the hock from the stock. Gently pull the bone from the centre of the meat - it should slide out really easily.

Put a large sheet of clingfilm onto your workbench. Put the hock in the centre and pull the edges up and tightly wrap the meat into a football shape. Refrigerate for 12 hours or so.

In a non stick pan heat the oil till very hot.

Unwrap the hock and slice into 1cm thick pieces. Put a couple at a time into the hot oil and fry for a few minutes on each side. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat till all the meat is cooked.

Serve with rice and a crisp spicy salad.

If you do have a deep fat fryer you should seriously give it a try.


Helen said...

This sounds great! Definitely a good use for the hock. 'Crispy pig skin is always a winner' - I couldn't agree more!

bron said...

Ah yes Helen my life is punctuated by blissful crispy pig skin moments.

If you can get oil hot enough it would be amazing - this version made lovely meat. Am wondering if roasting it in a hot oven might give me the desired finish...