Today’s recipe is not something I would normally make but we are going to Great Britain at the end of next month and I am determined to clear the freezer of all meat. In the freezer were two ham hocks that I bought last winter, obviously intending to make pea and ham soup – my favourite soup – but, clearly, I didn’t get around to it.
I knew the ham hocks were going to be a challenge to get rid of as they are something we only use here in winter. I went to Eat Your Books and searched “ham hocks” and got a multitude of recipes but, as expected, nothing other than this one sounded enticing for a hot summer’s day.
This was different – croquettes are fabulous with salad for dinner or wonderful finger food when you have guests. I decided to give them a go. Like I said, they are different from what I would normally make but different, as in this case, is sometimes good.
(I just had a thought … you could also make something very similar to these with your left over Christmas ham.)
Now these little babies taste strongly of ham so if you don’t like bacon or ham, you are not going to like these but if you are a fan of these flavours, read on.
It looks like the recipe takes a bit of time, and it does, plenty, but it was not hands on time so don’t be put off. You just need to think ahead because the ham hocks are boiled for 3 hours and then left to cool. (Clearly, if you are using left over Chistmas ham, there is no need for this step.) I started in the morning but you could easily cook the hocks the day before you make the croquettes.
This recipe has the added bonus of making bacon stock. Again, it is not something I would normally make but I decided to keep it. I can use it as a base for soup or even for a risotto. As nothing is allowed to be added to our freezer, I canned the stock but you can freeze it. I had 1.5 litres left over after using what I needed for this recipe.
You will note that the recipe calls for Panko breadcrumbs as well as ordinary breadcrumbs. I had never heard of Panko breadcrumbs before I read the recipe. On to Google I went and, in a wink, I knew all about them. It appears they are much coarser than normal crumbs and are always made with white bread. They are used primarily in Asian food (particularly Japanese) and are all the rage at the moment. This recipe (by Fiona Smith) appeared in a 2012 Cuisine magazine, so it was ahead of its time. 🙂
As I said, I am in the process of clearing out the fridges and pantry so instead of buying something new and having left over, I decided to make my own. The method suggested in a couple of recipes was to take some white bread, grate it on a food processor and then dry the crumbs in the oven (I would probably use 120°C). You don’t want to brown them. But because I live in a hot dry climate, I just put them on a tray in the sun and they dried nicely all by themselves. If you don’t have a food processor, dry the bread first and then grate with a hand grater.
These reheat well (I know, they made enough for three meals for us) so if you are making them for a gathering you can make them well in advance and just reheat them on the day. To reheat, place on a baking tray in a 200°C oven for 8 minutes.
Makes about 22.
To simmer the hocks …
- 2 ham hocks
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, thickly sliced
- 2 sticks celery, thickly sliced
- parsley stalks from 1 bunch (use the leaves for the croquettes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 6 cloves
To make the croquettes …
- hock meat (see above, or about 600g of left over Christmas ham)
- 300 mils stock
- 75g butter
- ½ cup flour
- parsley leaves from 1 bunch
- 4 eggs, 2 separated into yolks and whites (see below)
- 1 x 15 mil tbs green peppercorns in brine, drained, rinsed and lightly crushed
- 2 cups fine breadcrumbs
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- mustard and/or lemon wedges to serve
To simmer the hocks …
- Place the hocks in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then maintain for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well.
(I did wonder why I had to do this. I Googled it and found out that this initial cooking draws the salt out of the meat, giving you a more ‘meaty’ final taste, and prevents the cooking liquid from forming a scum. All this sounded good to me so I followed the recipe.)
- Return the hocks to the saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, parsley stalks (reserve the leaves for later), bay leaves, thyme and cloves. Add enough water to cover the hocks and then bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 3 hours until the meat is very tender. Remove from the heat and cool in the stock.
- Take the hocks out of the stock and set the stock aside.
- Remove and discard the skin, fat, sinew and bones from the hocks. Finely shred the resultant meat.
- Strain the stock and measure out 300mils. Don’t throw the balance of the stock out. If you don’t have a canner, put it in 500 mil containers and freeze it.
To make the croquettes …
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat then stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes – don’t let it brown.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and slowly add in the 300mils cold stock. Do this a little at a time. If you hurry, you will get lumps and it will take time to get rid of them.
- Once all the stock is incorporated, cook over moderate heat, stirring all the while, for a few minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then stir in the 2 egg yolks, mixing well to combine.
- Place the sauce, ham hock meat, chopped parsley leaves and green peppercorns into a large bowl. Mix well then taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I didn’t need to add anything). Refrigerate until chilled.
- Put the fine breadcrumbs on one plate and the panko crumbs on another. Lightly beat the egg whites together with the 2 remaining eggs. (We followed this instruction but we had quite a bit left over. I would just use two eggs and keep the egg whites for something else.)
- Using wet hands, roll the filling mixture into logs about 3cm thick and 6cm long. Roll the croquettes in the fine breadcrumbs, then in the egg and, finally, in the panko crumbs.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or in a large saucepan to 180°C or until shimmering. Deep-fry the croquettes until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Serve immediately with mustard and/or lemon wedges.