Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Soul Food! ~ Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor

     Down Home Cookin'!
     There is no shortage of great flavor in today's recipe.  Soul Food cooking is good old fashioned, down home cooking.  Soul Food is cooked in a way that ensures no nutrients will be lost and the food can be easily digested.  Soul Food is powerful food for the body, which houses the soul!
     Many athletes and competitive weight lifters say Soul Food is the number one body building cuisine.  When the body needs a combination of fast acting nutrition, combined with long acting power packed proteins and energy, down home cooking is the answer.  Soul Food provides comfort too, in both a physical and mental sense.  Because complex lipids and proteins are cooked in a way that allows easy digestive uptake, mental clarity and coordination increases.  The pot liquor contains cartilaginous compounds that help to prevent sports injuries by strengthening tendons and bone joints.
     Ham Hocks are the shank portion of the hind leg or fore leg of a pig.  The meat cutting district in Chicago has some great smoke houses that provide most of America with nice quality smoked meats.  A Smoked Ham Hock purchased in Chicago is usually as fresh as can be, so it will need very little preparation.  A Smoked Ham Hock that is a few weeks old will have a patina that forms on the surface.  The thin slimy patina coating can be removed by soaking the ham hock in boiling hot water for about 20 minutes.  This will make the ham hock meat cleaner tasting.  
     There is only a little bit of meat on a ham hock, but chewing the soft cartilaginous matter and sucking on the bone marrow is part of soul food dining.  Soft glutinous cartilage is an essential dietary nutrient for strong tendons, cartilage and strong heart valves in the human body, so a good ham hock actually is health food.
     Collard Greens & Ham Hocks are cooked with a slightly different method than what is used to make the cabbage version of this classic greens recipe.  The object is to cook the cabbage till it tender, but not mushy, so the simmering time is shorter than when cooking collard greens.
     The Pot Liquor is where all the flavor is!  The Pot Liquor is also loaded with easy to digest nutrients.  Never discard the pot liquor when cooking soul food and always serve it up with the greens!

     Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     A freshly smoked ham hock needs little preparation.  An aged ham hock needs to be soaked in boiling water till the patina coating is washed off.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the onions are a caramelized with light brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 smoked ham hock.  (Try to select a meaty ham hock.)
     Add enough water to cover the ham hock.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till almost all of the water has evaporated.  (Do not cover the pot, so the steam escapes.  The onions will become very soft and dissolve into the pot liquor.)
     Step 4:  Add 4 cups of 2" wide sliced cabbage.
     Add just enough water to almost cover the cabbage.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 to 3 pinches)
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Boil till the cabbage is a little more than half way cooked.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Simmer till the cabbage tender and the pot liquor reduces to about 3/4 cup in volume.
     *The pot liquor should be very rich by now.  You should be able to see more cabbage than broth in the pot. 
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the smoked ham hock and set it aside.
     Spoon the cabbage and the pot liquor into a shallow stew bowl.
     Set the smoked ham hock on top of the cabbage.
     Serve with corn bread or sliced white bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Down home style Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor recipe is a comfortable and delicious meal that can be served any time of the year!

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