Saturday 25 December 2010

Hic Haec Hock

In the McAdam family, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) was always the day for a simple boiled bacon joint, served with plain boiled potatoes, cabbage and parsley sauce. We've gone one step ahead in the era of the microwave, and cooked the bacon in advance. We got a jarret demi-sel from Intermarché - that to an English cook is a ham hock, or more universally a pig's ankle, preserved in a light brine. Four euros and 80 centimes got us 1.129 kilos of meat, admittedly including a big bone and the skin. We followed the "Good Housekeeping" timing (20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes), and cooked it with a bay leaf and five white peppercorns in a pan of water frémissant. That lovely expression literally means "shivering", but look at a pan of water at a gentle simmer and you will see how appropriate it is.

Most people throw the cooking liquor away. This depends on the brining process, and you really have to know your butcher with this one. If they are heavy handed with the salt, cover the meat with water, bring it to the boil, throw that water away and start again. The demi-sel gave a perfect hammy - but not salty - broth which we loaded with chopped cabbage and other assorted veg that we happened to have to hand, a small tin of flageolet beans, a couple of handfuls of rice and the same of mélange de grains from the biologique stall at Grand Pressigny market. This made about eight servings of a lovely main course soup. Tim minced up the skin and scrappy meat from the cooked hock to add to the soup, which you could omit if you don't fancy it. You could go the whole hog (ho ho) and add boudin blanc, or confit de canard to make a garbure. I particularly love butter beans with bacon - those pois du cap that Ken mentions on his blog look like the exact right thing!

We'll probably get six servings from the bacon meat, fourteen meals in all. Good going for four euros and 80 centimes!

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