Heavenly Ham Hock

I pulled a ham hock out of the freezer and read the label: “ham hock.” “Are all ham hocks smoked?” I wondered. I sniffed it, but detected no smoky goodness. Apparently not. I didn’t know what to do with a fresh ham hock. My cookbooks provided no guidance, so I went to the Internet and found a couple of recipes for braised fresh ham hock (also called “pork shank”).

heavenly ham hock
I used this recipe for Chinese braised hocks. The braising liquid calls for dark salted rice wine, which I didn’t have, so I used sherry.

I wanted crispy skin and melty fat, so after it was in the slow cooker for about nine hours, I moved the hock to a 450˚ oven for about 30 minutes. While it was in the oven, I attempted to reduce the braising liquid into a sauce. I didn’t have enough time for it to noticeably reduce, but it still worked fine drizzled on the meat, rice, and greens. (The meal that keeps on giving! Later I made soup by adding  kimchi, bok choy, and rice to the remaining broth.)
heavenly ham hock
Ham hock, sautéed bok choy, and brown rice.
The meat fell off the bone and this former vegetarian wanted to scarf down every bit, along with the skin and fat! However, I had some restraint, but only because I needed leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
heavenly ham hock
The flavor and textures were incredible and comparable to pork belly, except with more meat.
I’ve gone from being unsure about fresh ham hock to actively seeking it so I can cook it again, but in a milder liquid so I can get a better sense of the cut’s flavor.

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