Hello!!! I know I talk a lot about school (Ap World , AP Euro, MUN), but to be honest, I have a whole lot of free time. With this free time, I’ve been doing quite a bit of “recipe research”. I’ve come up with a few, except, my kitchen is not the most experiment friendly. However, last week, I stumbled across this recipe for Choucroute Garnie, braised meats with sauerkraut, and just HAD to try it. Only problem, it’s a rather complicated, very nuanced French dish with special requirements for ingredients. What did I do, I “China-ized” it. Behold: Braised Ham Hock with Pickled Mustard Greens.
Basically, its a slow cooked, spiced hunk of fat, meat and tendon on a bed of pickled vegetables and onion.
The original recipe called for pork shoulder, pork loin, some smoked meats and a variety of high quality specialty sausage and kraut. Pork shoulder is nice, but I wanted something funkier. Enter ham hocks.
Ham hocks are perfectly fatty and meaty with plenty of tendon and skin to hold everything together. I could have used knuckle, but the butcher only had 2-3 pound ones.. too big.
To accompany the hocks, I chose pork belly. It seems redundant to use the fatty hock, then add fattier belly, but I needed the oil to cook the onion.
For more salty, smoky flavour, I used salted pork leg meat. Tip: use sparingly, this stuff is STRONG
Honestly, some Chinese smoked pork belly or sausage would have been better, but I was already using fresh pork belly. Also, smoked meat and sausages need almost two hours to clean and parboil- No thanks!
Onions are onions, nothing fancy.
In lieu of sauerkraut, I used pickled mustard greens. Ideally, I would have bought homemade pickles from the market, but apparently mustard greens aren’t in season. I had to settle for packaged
Pickled mustard greens are pungent, salty and sour, perfect for cutting through the richness of the meat
The recipe calls for braising in alcohol. The base recipe, being French, recommended dry white wine. Using French wine in a Chinese dish? Not happening. The natural alternative would be strong rice wine, unfortunately, we ran out. Luckily, my mom ordered two cases of “yellow wine” (黄酒), so there was plenty for me to use.
Before cooking, I salted the hock and let it marinate overnight. This is supposed to help break down the meat and give it flavour. I cannot testify about the tenderizing effect, but salting really does flavour- wise. To further enhance flavour, I stuck garlic cloves into the meat. I picked this tip up from Diners , Drive-ins and Dives. It works like magic. If you just throw the garlic into the pot , not much of the flavour gets into the meat. This solves the problem.
I also advise soaking and rinsing the salted meat and pickled greens. both are SALTY and the flavour needs to be toned down. They won’t be used until later so after de-salinating them, set them aside. Prepwork done. Time to cook
Render out the pork belly. You want it so that the meat and fat are browned and that there is a good amount of oil in the wok/pan/dutch oven. Set aside. Using the fat, sautee the onions until soft, not browned. Put the hock in and sear slightly, then add spices, wine and water. Bring mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, transfer to a pot/casserole dish. If you are using a dutch oven, ignore this step. The baseline recipe calls for one, but as usual, I didn’t have one. Our stewing pot was too big, so I compromises with a clay pot we used to make Chinese medicines in. Boil for another 10-15min, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 2-2.5 hours. If you’re using smoked meats, take this time to parboil
Add the salted meat, pickled vegetables and more water if necessary. Continue cooking for another 1-1.5hrs, or until the meats are fall apart tender. Serve and Enjoy!!!
Note: You can braise in the oven. Put it in the oven at 120C for 2-2.5hr, add the rest of the stuff and go at 150C for another 1.5-2hr.
Braised Ham Hock with Pickled Mustard Greens
- 1 450-500g ham hock
- 250-300g pork belly, cubed
- 150-200g salted pork (I used salted leg meat), cubed
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 200-250g pickled mustard greens
- unground spices, to taste
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, halved
- 1 cup rice wine
- Water or stock, as needed
- Wash the hock, dry and salt fairly liberally. Let marinate in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Make incisions into the meat and stick the garlic into them
- Heat a wok to medium heat, add the pork belly and render until meat (and fat) is browned. Remove and set aside
- Add the onions to the wok and cook until softened but not browned. Add the ham hock and sear a bit then add wine, spices and water. Cover and let boil.
- Preheat oven to 125C. Once boiling, transfer the mixture in the wok into a Dutch oven or casserole dish. Bake for 2.5hr.
- Rinse the pickled greens and chop roughly.
- Raise the oven temperature to 150C. Add the pork belly, salted meat and mustard greens to the dish. Bake for another 2 hours or until meat is tender.
- Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!