Thanksgiving Cola Braised Ham Hocks

Turkey, turkey, turkey. You say Thanksgiving, first thing everyone pictures is a wattle-necked gobbler. Then they think dry, tough, chewy: these are not the words you want associated with your home cooking.

Some of you might think stuffing or cornbread dressing is the best item on your Thanksgiving table. Stuffing and dressing are certainly scrumptious, but they’re side dishes, and so, left out of the running for best holiday plate. It’s really no contest. Ham hocks are the best Thanksgiving dish. A thick, cheap, fatty, bone-in slab of pork, braised slowly over low temperature, these ham hocks are tenderly simmered in a delicious bath of stock and cola rendering a more delicious, more juicy and more flavourful meat to adorn your holiday table than any turkey, deep-fried or baked.

This is a very easy recipe that lets bold flavours sit at the head of the table without too much fuss in the kitchen. These braised ham hocks stew in Asian staples, like soy and hoisin, with a sweet American classic, cola, to build depth and subtlety that soaks up into a hearty cut of meat until it slips free of the bone. A pot of these cola braised ham hocks will make your whole house smell like the sweet savoury salty sticky bits that everybody wants on their plate at Thanksgiving.

braised-ham-hock-pot-overhead

Cola Braised Ham Hocks Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3-8 hours
Serves 8-12 people

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 6 ham hocks
  • pork neck bones
Cola Braise
  • 1L/4C of bone broth (substitute any kind of stock)
  • 750ml/3C of your favourite cola (Mine is a Canadian classic, A & W Root Beer)
  • 125ml/1/2C soy sauce
  • 30ml/2tbsp oyster sauce
  • 30ml/2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 30ml/2 tbsp Chinese five spice
  • 15ml/1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or black rice vinegar
  • 15ml/1tbsp tomato paste or red bean curd (for depth and colour)
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 whole dried chiles (chipotles add a bit of smoke, but whatever works)
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 150C/300F.
  2. Heat up  broth/stock in a pot until it reaches boiling point.
  3. In a large crock pot or Dutch oven layer up ham hocks, seasoning each piece of meat on both sides before placing it in the pot, then weigh down with seasoned neck bones.
  4. In a mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients of cola braise except stock, then pour over ham hocks and bones.

Cooking:

  1. Pour simmering broth over meat and braising liquid. If liquid does not reach the top of your pot, add water until it is sufficiently full to cover all the meat.
  2. Place in oven and braised for a minimum of 3 hours.

Note:

This dish will only get better with time, cooking for a whole day will allow the flavours to fully come together, while breaking down the tendons and connective tissue in the meat, resulting in that tender fall off the bone, melt in your mouth yum yum.

Serve & Plate:

  1. Pull out each piece of meat and gently slide out the bones, then plate the meat on a serving platter. If strained, the braising liquid can be boiled down, or thickened with a corn starch slurry, to make an amazing cola gravy. Ham hock leftovers and remaining gravy will make awesome pulled pork sandwiches for the rest of the week.

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