Making a Cheap Cut Look Posh – The Very Affordable Ham Hock Terrine
Pork hocks. I love them. They’re a delight to stew them with beans, slow cooked vegetables such as collard greens, or one of my favorite, stewed and then fried. Plus they’re ridiculously cheap. Pork tenderloins at the local farmer’s market will probably set you back $18-20/lb. Pork hocks, $2/lb. It’s cheap. I’m cheap. I’ll take it.
While I do favor the rustic preparations of pork hocks, there are ways to make them look more posh. In this case, I made a terrine. It doesn’t mean I like them better, they just look more presentable and perhaps palatable to some. Rather than gnaw on the bone, one can elegantly eat it with a fork and knife.
If you didn’t grow up with exposure to European food, chances are, the idea of a terrine may seem a little foreign. Heck, every single one of my friends didn’t really have a clue what I was talking about when I was talking about making them. (I live in Texas.) The definition may even seem complicated since they fall into broad categories. Generally, as per Ruhlman and Polcyn, it’s a big sausage cooked in a mold, dough or skin. In my instance, it’s shredded meat set in gelatin.
Back to pork hocks. Pork hocks are delicious. Pork hocks are also fatty and rich in connective tissues. This makes them ideal for releasing rich gelatinous goodness which is necessary in making some terrines. And so the process is simple – boil the hocks long enough to extract the gelatin into a flavorful stock called an aspic. Pull and shred the meat of the pork hocks. Set the meat in a pan. Pour on the aspic over. Put it in a fridge to set. Remove, cut it, and eat.
Alright, that’s simple in theory but in reality, there are a few more details. Let’s get into them shall we?
Let’s start with the stock/the braise of the hocks. I’m using some real simple aromatics here, just the usual carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf and pepper. Here’s my MEP (MEP = mise en place, which is just a fancy way of saying preparing your ingredients and having them in place before putting them together. Using the term mise en place makes you sounds like you’re a foodie. Saying mise makes you sound kinda bad-ass cool. Shortening that to MEP just means you’re too lazy to type.)
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 Pork Hocks
2 Onions, quartered
2 sticks of celery
1 Tbsp of peppercorns
1 Bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of thyme
water (guesstimate this)
3/4 oz of gelatin
1 cup of parsley leaves
Salt to taste
1. Put the hocks and aromatics into a pot and fill it with water. That chunk of ice you see there is from a little chicken stock I added for good measure. I was making room in my freezer. Bring everything to a simmer and simmer. I just left mine in a 160F to 200F (I changed the temperature) oven for a few hours overnight because I was sleepy. Overnight seems long and it probably is. Gelatin breaks down with prolonged cooking. But I had powdered gelatin to work with, not a problem.Next, remove the hocks, cool them down and then shred. I like large chunks. Put aside any fatty parts and tendons aside. Discard or eat them. (I roasted the bones and the tendons and ate them. Not the whole bone mind you, just the marrow.)
2. Strain the liquid at least twice. Four times is better.
3. Mix the shredded meat with some chopped parsley and salt. Ideally, season the meat when it’s cool since the terrine will be served cold. The human tongue tends to be less sensitive to seasoning when eating cold foods. Pack the meat into a mold such as a terrine. I don’t have a terrine (it’s a container) so I used a bread pan.
4. In the mean time, mix in some gelatin with the aspic. Test the aspic by putting it on a cold dish or a bowl set on ice. (I used a shot glass.) It should be firm enough to cut but soft enough that it almost melts in the mouth.
5. Pour the aspic over the meat mixture. Place a plastic wrap over and place in the fridge to set overnight.
6.Remove the terrine from the pan. If there’s any difficulty, place the pan in some warm water to melt some of the gelatin until it slides right out. Then slice the darn thing to eat. (If it’s hard to slice, put it in the fridge or freezer for just a little longer to firm up.
7. Serve cold with some kind of acidic sauce to cut the richness of the terrine. Here, I’m using a raisin & onion chutney courtesy taken from Charcuterie.