Compare and contrast my last two anniversary celebration vacations. For both trips I went to Europe. One was spent in a big city. The next one was spent on a farm. For the first trip we got around on trains and on foot. For the next one, we moved around mostly on horseback. One one trip Kevin did all of the talking (French) and on the next one I did the talking (Italian). For both trips we drank more wine than we ever do at home. Both trips had fantastic food, but for one of them we ate only in restaurants and the other almost all of our meals were cooked in the farmhouse kitchen.
We loved our meals in Italy, but when I remember our Paris trip, one of my most vivid memories was of the hearty French food we ate. One of my most memorable meals was our anniversary dinner at that Paris institution, La Coupole.
If you are a regular reader of TERP, you may remeber (I can also jog your memory for you) of how I ordered Jarret de Porc at La Coupole. Then I realized that I didn't know what "jarret" meant and freaked out for a few minutes until my dinner was actually served to me. The hock that was my dinner turned out to be perfectly delicious and was an even better choice than I had originally anticipated. Score one for me. It was the kind of meal I thought would be once in a lifetime.
Quite recently I caught this post at We Are Never Full. Amy and Jonny are never ones to shy away from new and different ingredients. Looking at their rendition of Jarret de Porc, I knew it was possible for me to recreate my Parisian adventure.
The only real obstacle to making the recipe would be finding the ingredients. Most markets carry smoked hocks since they are such a flavorful addition to legume-based soups. Fresh ones can be a little trickier. Not all markets are likely to carry nose-to-tail meats.
I am very lucky to have the Norwalk Shop Rite just a stone's throw from my office. (How I will miss this palce after I'm laid off next year!) I have seen all sorts of interesting animal parts there from fresh tongue to tripe to pork skin to fresh pork neck bones. It is my supplier of smoked turkey tails. I made a trip there to see what they could offer me and sure enough I saw pig's ears, necks, jowls, and most importantly, fresh hocks. I was ready to go.
My intention was to follow Amy and Jonny's recipe. I was a little puzzled by it. I am used to regular stewing methods where you brown your meat first and then cook it in liquid. This recipe had it backwards. First you poach the pork and then you cook it in the oven. This was my first time cooking with a new ingredient, so I wasn't about to start experimenting. If it worked for them, then I would do it that way. If you're going to alter something about an untried recipe, alter the ingredients and not the method.
I did alter the ingredients a bit. Pork tastes great with reisling and it tastes great with apples. I replaced two cups of the water in the poaching liquid with two cups of reisling and also added a quartered apple to the mix.
The hocks were slightly problematic as they stuck to the pan terribly when I roasted them, ripping off some of that lovely skin. I also think I probably didn't need to roast them the entire recommended time (I guess I just have a hotter oven or used smaller hocks.) My pan drippings were a little burned.
I will not post the recipe here, as I don't want to be poaching anyone else's work. Please refer to the link to We Are Never Full if you are interested in making this. My only difference in preparing the pork is that I added the apple and the reisling to the poaching pot.
I served it with plain mashed potates instead of garlic-parsley ones and my plating just isn't as pretty (a dish this special probably deserved the light box for the photo, but I was lazy) but it was one tasty dish. In some ways I liked this better than the one I had in Paris because I was able to really taste the meat naturally and not flavored heavily with sauerkraut. The reisling and apples gave it some sweetness and some sharpness, but I could still taste lots of porky goodness. Pork hocks do taste very similar to ribs. If you're a rib lover, you definitely have to try these.