I know that this sounds ridiculous! Erase all visions of camp fire cooking from your mind and try to wrap your brain around fancy pork and beans! Wait…. That sounds even more ridiculous…
Ok, let me try again. Smoky, salty ham hocks, simmering onions, herbaceous fresh thyme and tender white cannellini beans. Better?
I wanted to create a dish that was both comforting and hearty. It is also something that I can tuck into without shame. The ham hock is used mostly for flavor, and the actual meat that comes from the hock is very lean. I also used a liberal amount of fresh thyme which I think really elevated the flavors.
It has been a long time since I soaked and cooked dried beans, but I realized as long as you plan ahead it is really easy and well worth it. You get a better tasting, fresher, (cheaper!) product.
So whip up a big batch and serve them to your friends and family while watching a game, or with a green salad and a big glass of wine for dinner!
Or if you are a freak like me, feed them to your new puppy with a spoon so he will love you even more… I know. I have issues…
-You must let these beans soak. Beans that are tough an hour into cooking, will not get less tough the longer you cook them. Beans absorb most of their moisture in the soaking process.
-DO NOT USE SALT. Boy, I bet you never thought you would hear that out of my mouth. If you salt the cooking liquid, the beans will never get soft. Plus don’t salt anything until the very end. Those ham hocks are salty as hell, and will most likely do the trick all on their own.
Pork and Beans, serves 8
-1.5lbs dried cannellini beans
-12 cups water
-1lb smoked ham hock
-1 yellow onion, diced
-2 Tbs Fresh picked thyme
-2 cups water, (you could sub out ½ cup of the water for white wine!)
-2 Tbs red wine vinegar
-Kosher salt and Black pepper to taste
1) In a large bowl, cover the beans with 12 cups of cold water and set the beans to soak over night.
2) Come back the next day and drain the beans and then rinse them in a strainer really well until all dust or “stuff” (whatever it is) is gone and they look shiny and clean!
3) Pour them in a large pot and just cover them with water.
4) Bring them to a boil, and watch all kinds of weird white foam come to the top of the pot.
5) Skim the white foam off and discard it. This will take a few minutes of skimming. It’s so weird. What is that stuff?
6) All of the sudden you will notice that there isn’t a lot of foam left.
7) At that point, you can reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for about an hour. At that point test them and see if they are tender enough. If they are, drian the beans of their cooking liquid and then put the pot back on the stove. (If they are not, cook for another 10-15 minutes.)
8) When the beans have 20 minutes left, get out a large sauté pan.
9) Heat the pan to high, and add your ham hocks, searing them until they start to get browned on all sides, and the fat starts to render, (about 5-7 minutes).
10) Add the onions to the pan and toss them with the ham and rendered fat. Let them cook until the onions are softened and starting to get golden, (about 5 minutes) and then add the water and use it to de-glaze the pan. Add the fresh thyme and let everything simmer together on low heat so that the broth gets really flavorful.
11) Pull the ham hocks out, and set aside.
12) Add the red wine vinegar to the broth and let simmer while you process the ham.
13) For the ham hocks, use tongs (they will be hot!) and a knife, and cut the meat from the skin and bone. Chop the ham into bite sized pieces (I yielded about 1 cup of meat) and discard the skin and fatty bits.
14) Add the bones and ham chunks back to the broth, and then add the contents of the pan into the beans.
15) Over low heat with the lid on, let everything simmer together for about 10-15 minutes while the flavors are absorbed into the beans.
16) Now is the time to check seasoning. Salt (possible?) black pepper, a little more acid (red wine vinegar)- see how they taste!
17) I think they taste yummy…. Dish up a big bowl, and maybe drizzle a little olive oil over it for good measure. Enjoy!