I keep a HUGE electronic file of compelling recipes, discovered online or sent by friends. Unfortunately, I will never have enough hours in my lifetime to make all of the recipes I’ve stored (with the best of intentions to one day make). Occasionally I've gotten up the gumption to put the tried-and-true recipes into a single file I've later had bound for ease of use at home...but in general it's just en ever-growing collection of good intentions.
By far the best and most reliable source for my tastes and palate are the recipes I find at the Australian Gourmet Traveller website. A friend turned me on to this magazine a few years back, and I’ve been subscribing ever since. The bad news: Shipping costs as much as the subscription, so if you want hard copies of the magazine, it will run you about $150/year. The good news: They now have an online iPad issue, and it’s incredible…It’s also only 6 bucks an issue (a bargain compared to the cover price + shipping). Their recipes inspire me, they often have the Asian flair I love most, and they are seriously the best magazine I’ve found locally, nationally or internationally in that they don’t target their recipes to the lowest common denominator (Saveur is the only one I’ve found in the US that also gives you the real deal). Yes, they have simple recipes…but they also give restaurant recipes that are more complicated and involved and truly show you how to recreate that dish at home. They play to the whole range of home cooks and culinary professionals rather than just busy parents who need to slap something together in 30 minutes after working all day.
I’ve made pork hocks once before, to attempt a Teage Ezard recipe for Crispy Fried Pork Hock with Chilli Caramel. In that case I ordered them deboned from Uwajimaya, which saved a ton of time. This time, I figured I’d do it myself. I had some bone-in pork hocks in the freezer and feel like I have decent knife skills, so what the hell right? WRONG. My knife skills when it comes to trying to debone pork hocks are right up there with my baking finesse. I spent 20 minutes on the first pork hock, the result from which looked like a crime scene. It’s like dating—You get excited about trying to master that huge, daunting bone, but at the end of the day it’s just a pain in the ass. (Oh, TMI?)
I thought it might be easier to get the bone to pull out (heh heh, Beavis) after braising in the Master Stock (see recipe), but that didn’t work either. There’s just too much bone-to-meat ratio and when the braise was done, the whole thing was too fragile for it to work. Pork hocks, meet garbage can. Time to improvise. I refreshed the Master Stock by adding another half recipe of ingredients to what I already had on hand, building up the volume again for another attempt. This time, I braised 2 pounds of fresh pork belly for a few hours. (Note: you can use your master stock over and over for your entire life…it will build in flavor. Just be sure to add to it when the volume gets low, and boil, strain, cool and freeze after you’re done cooking what you’ve cooked in it. Also, I subbed in the master stock recipe from the Teage Ezard recipe I linked above, because I think it’s complex and delicious). When the pork belly was done, I compressed it per the instructions in the recipe below, chilled it overnight, cubed it and fried it. It was fab. The plum sauce was also a hit, and the only modification I made there was to increase the amount of thai chilli because we like it hot around here. That’s just how the gays roll.
The recipe is posted in it’s original form below from the Gourmet Traveller website, with my modifications outlined above. Enjoy!
Crisp pork hock with roasted almond and chilli salad
500 gm (It’s about a pound. Quit whining) boneless pork hocks
For deep frying: vegetable oil
20 gm (1 tbsp) mixed baby herbs (see note)
15 gm flaked almonds, roasted
1 kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
To serve: steamed jasmine rice
1 stick celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 red shallots, coarsely chopped
1 large red chilli, coarsely chopped
2 garlic, coarsely chopped
20 gm galangal, coarsely chopped
½ stick lemon grass, coarsely chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
1 piece orange peel, removed with a vegetable peeler, pith removed
150 gm palm sugar, finely grated
75 ml (2.5 oz.) Shaoxing wine
50 ml (1.7 oz) soy sauce
1½ litres (5 cups) chicken stock
Chilli plum sauce
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
4 (320 gm) blood plums or other red skinned plums, stones removed and coarsley chopped
500 gm palm sugar, finely grated
250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar
- For masterstock, combine all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain masterstock into a clean saucepan, discard solids, add pork hock and return to the boil. Reduce heat and cook, basting occasionally, for 1½ hours or until pork is tender. Remove from stock and place on an oven tray, cover with plastic wrap, place another tray on top and weigh down with food cans. Refrigerate overnight.
- For chilli plum sauce, combine all ingredients and 1 tsp sea salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce has thickened, adding more water if mixture gets too thick. Spoon into a hot sterilised jar and seal, keeps up to 3 months. Makes 1½ cups.
- Cut pork into 1.5cm cubes. Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan or deep fryer to 180C and deep-fry pork for 3 minutes or until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper.
- Heat 100 ml chilli plum sauce in a wok over medium heat, add pork and toss. Spoon onto a serving plate. Combine herbs and almonds in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil, season to taste with sea salt and arrange on top of pork hock. Serve with rice to the side.
Note Baby herbs are available from select greengrocers.