This dish was first inspired when I saw Anthony head back to home territory (New York) and tour the city’s great old-skool eateries. If you’ve ever been to New York you know that there’s an endless selection of places to eat with every culture and cuisine present and a combo of trendy and traditional restaurants. A fickle diner’s wet dream!
Bourdain stopped by an old German restaurant where he ordered a Flinstone-sized dish called Schweinshaxe, a Bavarian specialty which is essentially a pork shank roasted and served on the plate with room for little else. The sound of Bourdain sinking his knife into the shank and hearing the crack of the skin hooked me. I had to have this dish – I was going to make it.
Off I went searching for how to get the pork skin crispy and the meat underneath, juicy and flavourful. I learned that there are many ways a to cook a pork shank – offered up by many cultures. The Bavarians made Schweinshaxe with the “must have crackling”, in Berlin the pork shank (or hock) is called Eisbein and it’s boiled/braised until tender then served. The issue I have with Eisbein is that the skin is still soft and it’s recommended that the diner peel and discard it.The Viennese have Stelze and they marinate and boil the pork hock then roast it. It was also interesting to see shanks spit-roasted but I’ll save that fr next summer.
The Phillipinos make a dish called Crispy Pata where the shank is braised and then to crisp-up the skin they simply fry it on all sides. I read of people brining, searing, braising and broiling, resting the meat for a day, chilling – everything short of making the pig fly! The most straight-forward and successful method that will reward you with juicy pork shanks and crispy skin (crackling) is to simply slow roast it.
I’ve made a rub of herbs, salt and pepper, some mustard powder and garlic and simply poured some amber-coloured beer (lager, pilsener, ale) – into the pot and into the oven it goes for 4 hours, yes 4 hours in a moderately heated oven with no foil, no covering. Low and slow.
The flavours are inspired by pork dishes I’ve enjoyed in Greece and yes, these behemoth pieces of meat (pork shanks) are also cooked in Greece (we call them “kotsi”). Some kotsi are roasted and others are braised. The crackling may be present or not. Pork loves garlic, herbs, some dry mustard powder for some underlying flavour and lots of salt and pepper. The skin crisps-up pretty quickly in the oven and depending on your oven (mine is with natural gas) and you may have to lower the heat to 325F.
Pork shanks with crispy skin takes time, patience. You’ll be rewarded with juicy, flavourful pork shanks and crispy skin (crackling) and one pork shanks can feed two well or one shank for one hungry fella!
(serves 8 or 4 hungry guests)
4 pork shanks, with rind (skin)
olive oil for rubbing pork skin
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tsp. of fennel seeds, ground
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tsp. marjoram leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp. mustard powder
fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper
500 ml. can of beer (tall boy), nothing too dark
Pre-heated 500F oven
extra stock and beer for roasting pan
- Grind your fennel seeds and mix with the garlic, mustard, chopped thyme, marjoram and rosemary and rub well into the shanks then season generously with sea salt and some fresh ground pepper.
- Place the pork shanks upright in the pan and pour the beer all round the pork and place in your pre-heated 500F oven (middle rack, uncovered) for 30-40 minutes or until crackling has formed (the skins is hard when you tap it). Now reduce to 280F and continue the slow roast.
- After a couple of hours, check/replenish the liquid in the pan and add more beer but ensure the liquid in the pan doesn’t come up the pan more than 1 inch. Continue to roast and take out of the oven after 4 hours. Tent with foil and keep warm.
- Serve the pork shanks with roast potatoes or sauerkraut rice and some roasted quinces. Pour some sauce over the shanks and serve. You can cut the shanks in half (cutting vertically) if one shank is too much for one. Serve with a Tsantali Alexander red.
* I may try bring the pork shanks next time by basically filling a tub with enough water to just cover the shanks and add 3/4 cup salt, dissolve and place the shanks in the brine in a cool spot overnight.
© 2011 – 2013,
. All rights reserved.