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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...