Classic Smoked Ham Hock and Beans
A friend's daughter is involved with 4H and I offered to buy half of one of her pigs. I was not happy when I was told the head, ears and tail weren't available but otherwise it's been an interesting project. I always prefer my beans with just aromatics and vegetables but we know from a lot of customers that they love to cook beans with a ham hock. Maybe I'm nuts but I never do this. I was talking about it with Georgeanne Brennan one day and she told me she boils the ham hock with just a bay leaf and then cuts the meat off the bone and serves it with the beans, which have also been made simply. The option is having the pork "become one" with the beans while cooking or you have a dish with sharper, more distinct, flavors and textures. I chose to simmer the smoked hocks in water for 2 hours with onion and bay leaf. I then added the meat to cooked Alubia Blanca beans and thinned the pot out with the reserved pork broth from the simmer, but only enough to make a medium-bodied soup. I didn't want it too thin and I didn't want a thick, stodgy mass. This was just about perfect. I simmered the final pot with a rosemary sprig and served this with some ciabatta-like rolls that are relatively easy, from the book Morito. You do most of the work in the Kitchen Aid and my family goes a little nuts whenever I make them. It was a great Sunday supper although more leftovers would have been appreciated.