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Fun with pork hocks! Am I crazy?

So, I'm on a moderately tight budget, and I love to challenge myself with things I haven't tried before.

My local Walmart (I know, I know, Walmart... bear with me) recently opened up a full grocery section, meat included, and I went to poke around their display to see what kind of interesting stuff they might have. Well, the pork hocks just jumped off the shelf. The ugliest, cheapest cut of meat on the whole stand. I just had to see what I could do with it.

Not THE most economical thing, I know -- whole shoulders were on sale at another store for $0.79/lb a couple weeks ago -- but I only cook for myself and what the hell would I do with ten pounds of pork?

These are fresh hocks, by the way -- that's what caught my interest. Recipes for smoked hocks are everywhere -- hard to find a pot of red beans n' rice without them -- but fresh hocks? Not so much.

What I settled on was like an osso buco style braise, borrowing from Marcella Hazan's osso buco recipe, but a couple of twists. Osso buco for those who can't afford $22/lb veal. "Oinko buco" if you will.

The cute lil' hocks got a good browning, as did some mirepoix, then white wine, homemade stock, tomatoes, herbs and into the oven. Been in a couple hours and going to give them at least one hour more, then cool overnight, skim and eat tomorrow!

Will this work? Am I crazy? Should I have boiled the hocks first? What else could I do with these things in the future? They're so neat.

Smells great in here, by the way.

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  1. I was going to suggest browning them, but you already knew what to do! They should be very tasty. Just so you know, you can use the same method (browning) and add to a pot of beans also, the meat does not have to be smoked although if you want the smoky flavor, add some smoked sea salt. And by the way, I will choose a ham hock, pig foot, pig tail etc over a large piece of meat any day of the week; to me, they have more flavor.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw

      Thanks for the input!
      About halfway through, I was definitely wishing that I'd had some cannellini beans or some such to throw in there -- all I had was canned, though, and that wouldn't have worked.
      They're well and truly out now. So tender the skin hardly held them when I was transferring them out of the pot -- and the braising liquid is going to be almost aspiclike, I can already tell -- the chicken stock I used was gelatinous to start with, and even though they're still hot, these juices are already thiiiiiick.

      Diet food, it ain't. This is gonna be rich. Comfort food!
      Just had to share. :)

      I guess almost any flavour profile would work with these? They seem to be commonly used in Chinese cooking... I can see going Mexican or Spanish or German with them...

      1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

        Umm my mouth is watering :) You're right, any of those cuisines would work well and all uses pork in some fashion. My dad didn't cook much but one dish that only he made was Great Northern beans with pork hocks...he didn't use the smoked hocks, only fresh, cooked for hours with the beans over low heat and I'm telling you, they were the best.

        I'm thinking, if you have any of that liquid leftover, you can use that to cook your beans in or reduce it and spoon over some pork tenderloin or chops...Oh, and it can be frozen for later (but may have to be pureed to break it up because of the gelatin)

    2. I've had them stuffed with a pork and pistachio farce, and then pretty much cooked exactly the way you described.

      I was in my late teens and I still remember that meal. What a mouthgasm!!

      1. Braised with cabbage -- serve with or without beans.

        1. Dug in tonight -- SO rich. I think I'm in a saturated fat coma. Falling-apart tender, though, and the sauce is spectacular -- think I'm going to have the second hock pulled-pork style on fresh buns tomorrow, then cook some beans in the remaining "liquid" (read: pork Jello.)

          Amazing stuff. Tried to break into the shanks so I could get at the marrow but I lack a bone saw, so no dice there.

          Hurray for cheap meat!

          1. You've learned not to scorn cheap smoked pork, now extend your tolerance to canned beans. Canned beans are cooked essentially as we would cook them, except for being in a sealed container, hence the snotty liquid. Rinse that off and you have perfectly nice beans, just waiting to be infused with some serious flavor. If you introduce them to your pig parts early enough to share some quality time, but late enough so they don't get cooked to mush, I promise you will be pleased with the results.

            I have made a fake cassoulet with canned beans and lamb shanks that people ate with both hands...

            1. In Sicily a couple of years ago I had the most delicious braised (I think) pork hocks - they call it stinco. It was done with lots of rosemary, garlic and I'm guessing white wine. I suspect the hocks were browned, then braised, then baked open so that the sauce concentrated and the meat dried out just enough. It was unbelievable. I've tried to duplicate it at home and came close - so I do snap up those hocks when they're cheap and available.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Nyleve

                "Stinco" is shin, or shank. The classic mainland Italian dish is Stinco de Vitello, but we don't do veal around this house, and I've been looking for a source for whole pork shanks to make this with for some time. Never thought of using smoked hocks...

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I didn't use smoked - they were fresh hocks. My supermarket generally cuts them in half to sell them, but next time I go in I'll ask them to keep them whole. I'm sure you can find them somewhere - especially in a more downscale neighbourhood. This is poverty food.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    In Los Angeles County it's most likely Asian or Latino food, and most readily available at the those ethnic supermarkets. It would be relatively easy to order whole uncut shins or shanks from a good boutique butcher such as those at Bristol Farms, but I'm also trying to get out for cheap!

              2. Next time, look up a recipe for Vietnamese-style udon (specifically, google "banh canh gio heo"). A little too greasy for me personally but the flavour is fab ... and light!

                1. I'm going to try your dish this weekend, and if it goes as well as yours seems to have, I'm going to try it on dinner guests the next Saturday.

                  Another nice osso bucco-ish dish does the same thing with turkey legs. Have the butcher chop the ends of the bone off for you. Totally different result, but great nonetheless.

                  1. While I usually braise hocks, or even 'stew' if I want more stock, I've also been pleased with a 'dry roast'. I put that dry in quotes because it's actually a braise without added liquid. I put the hock (cut up Asian style) in a Chinese sand pot (1 1/2 qt), add a few seasonings (soy sauce, etc), and baked covered. The clay pot with a well fitting lid, effectively captures all the juices from the meat, but still allows it to develop a good color.

                    1. Kind of different, but I made a pie with lamb shanks.

                      1. Used the second hock last night in a kind of Italian-style take on red beans & rice. White beans (I did cave, and used canned... I was tired :P) & rice, if you will, and replace Cajun-type seasonings with rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon, white wine...

                        Came out spectacular (didn't look like much, but tasted like a million bucks) and I can't wait for lunchtime to demolish the leftovers.

                        Also, I strained what was left of the initial braising liquid and I'm going to save it and use it like a demi-glace. A tablespoon was rich & potent enough to give a great, thick, unctuous, meaty taste and texture to a whole pot of my bean mixture. Love it!

                        Good luck, dmd_kc -- let us know how it goes. :)

                        1. Sounds marvelous - I'm doing something similar tomorrow. I'm trying to replicate a dish I had at Tallent in Bloomington, IN. I don't have a recipe - I'm making it up as I go.

                          Smoked pork hock with sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash. I think I'll brown it with a bit of onion, then add the vegetables, deglaze with white wine, add chicken stock and simmer till tender, take the lid off and let it cook down.

                          I can hardly wait.

                          1. I bought pork hocks the other day and made crispy pata with them. Nothing is better than crispy pork skin!