Sometimes even I give in to impulse buying. I saw Pork Hocks (the lower portion of Mr Piggie's front leg) on sale for 79 cents a pound at 99 Ranch Market. I couldn't resist..... I bought three, which came out to a shade over $3.25!
Meet the piggies.....
So what to do with these? I decided to do straight forward Red Cooked Pork Hocks. For us, anything Red Cooked means a 3-phased meal plan. First we eat the meat, second, after straining, comes the boiled eggs, and third phase would be some chicken(first browned than) stewed gently in the remaining liquid with some tuberous vegetable. In theory, you could keep the braising liquid(aspic) going forever, by adding water and other liquids, seasonings, straining and skimming, and refrigeration. I've read accounts of braising liquids and soup being perpetuated in this endless cycle. I once mentioned this to a friend, who was so grossed out over this idea, that she stopped eating with me. I'd better not tell her about sourdough starter since she's a bread lover!
Red Cooking is usually associated with Shanghainese Cuisine, though the Missus recalls it being used in Her household growing up. It is a pretty easy cooking technique, and pretty much lives up to the "sweet, salty, and red cooked" monnicker often used with regards to Shanghai cuisine. There are basically 2 types of red cooking, the first is a short cooking approach, which uses a sugar-based caramelization technique of melting sugar in oil to start things out. This is used with cuts such as pork belly, and takes from 40 minutes to an hour. Since I was using a much tougher cut of meat, I used the slow braising technique, which starts with a "browning step", in the case of the pork hocks, an "oil blanching", with the Oxtails, a pan searing.
So here goes..... I know many familes have their own "secret" recipe. Here's my not-so-secret, but real easy recipe. I let the pork hocks and oxtails rest overnight before eating.
Red Cooked Pork Hocks
3-4 Pork Hocks, rinsed, patted dry with paper towels.
2/3 Cup + 2 Tb Soy sauce
1/3 Cup Dark Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar + up to 1/4 Cup reserve
2/3 Cup + 1Tb Shao Xing Wine
5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1-2 1/2" knobs of ginger smashed
3 Star Anise broken in half
4 Scallions - white part only, roughly chopped
1 piece dried tangerine peel broken in half
1 2-3" cinnamon stick
4-5 Cups Water.
2 Tb Canola Oil
3 Cups Canola Oil for frying
1 - Rub Shoulder with 2Tb Soy sauce and 1Tb Shao Xing, and let rest for 15 minutes.
2 - Heat oil in a wok until a temperature of 375 degrees. Place pork hock into oil, and fry, ladling oil over the exposed side of the pork hock for about 1-2 minutes. Turn and repeat.
3 - Remove pork hock from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
4 - Repeat for all the other pork hocks.
5 - In another pan or wok heat 2Tb, and add the garlic and scallions and saute until fragrant.
6 - Add 2/3 Cup Shao Xing wine, and bring to a boil.
7 - Add Soy Sauces, ginger, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, star anise, tangerine peel, and cinnamon, and bring to a simmer.
8 - Add 3 cups of water, and place pork hocks in liquid. Add water to cover up to two-thirds of the pork hock.
9 - Bring to a low simmer.Turn pork hocks every hour. After 3 hours taste the liquid, and adjust sugar or water as necessary. I doubt that you'd need more soy sauce.
10 - Cook for another hour, or more as necessary. (These hocks took me 5 hours) The pork should be tender, and close to, but not falling off the bone. Or as the Missus says, "ewww, it's starting to look like an Old Man's neck."
11 - Let the hocks cool in the liquid. Once the liquid is cool, remove the hocks and place in a container and refrigerate.
12 - Strain braising liquid, and refrigerate overnight.
13 - Heat liquid (now an aspic), and place pork hocks into pot.
14 - Remove the pork hocks when heated, cut meat off the bone and chop into pieces. Use the braising liquid as the sauce and pour over meat and rice. Of course you can always go "Flintstone" and grab the whole bone and gnaw away......
15 - Place 6-8 shelled boiled eggs into braising liquid.....and so forth.....
Adjusting for Oxtails:
You can us the same basic technique as my Chinese style Braised Oxtails. Basically searing off the Oxtails seasoned with salt and pepper first.
Adjust cooking times as necessary.
I think I like these even more.....
Remember to wait a day (if you can), it'll be worth it!