Roasted Pork Shanks With CracklingDec 12th, 2011 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Beer, Featured, Festive, German, Greek Wine, Herbs, Main, Onions, Pork, Quinces, Recipes, Roasting, Salt, Sauce, Stock
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 placed the shanks on a bed of onions, carrots and celery bay leaves and poured some amber-coloured beer (lager, pilsener, ale) and stock – 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
2 medium onions, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
3 bay leaves
500 ml. can of beer (tall boy), nothing too dark
500 ml. chicken stock
Pre-heated 325-350F oven
extra stock and beer for roasting pan
- Slice your onions, carrots, celery and place in a roasting pan large enough to just fit your pork shanks and place 3 bay leaves in there too! Rinse and pat-dry the pork shanks then score the skin with a sharp knife (I simply scored three rings around each shank) then rub them with some oil. 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 on top of the vegetables in the pan and pour the beer and stock all round the pork and place in your pre-heated oven (middle rack, uncovered) for 4 hours. After a couple of hours, check/replenish the liquid in the pan and add more beer or stock (or both) but ensure the liquid in the pan doesn’t come up the pan more than 1 inch. Continue to roast basting the meat on occasion with the liquid and take out of the oven after 4 hours. Tent with foil and keep warm.
- In the meantime strain the liquid through a mesh strainer and press the vegetables to get maximum flavour. Use a gravy separator to divide the fat from the good stock then place a small pot on your stovetop and add a Tbsp. of fat and a tsp. of flour and stir for a minute with a wooden spoon. Now add the hot pan juices while stirring and simmer until the sauce has thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and some more fresh thyme leaves.
- 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.
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