You know those wooden pork stands in the grocery store, back by the meat department? If you’ve ever checked out this porcine scaffolding, you’ve likely noticed they’re stocked with just about every part of the pig, save face and squeal. From fat back to ham steaks, it’s there.
They have packs of bits and pieces of country ham. Which is what I picked up to make Puerto Rican rice and beans.
There was enough, even in the small package that I divided it u and threw them in the freezer for a meal to be attempted at a later date.
Then I had a food chat with the former chief of the Durham Police Department, Jose Lopez, and his wife Becky; both Puerto Rican. They invited me into their home, and gave me a comprehensive class in the cuisine of the island.
She taught me a few dishes and one of them was a big pot of beans. They were delicious and tasted and smelled just like Puerto Rico.
There was only one problem. There was pork in the recipe, but not ham—ham hocks.
So now I had a couple bags of ham pieces, and nothing to do with them. There was no way I would toss perfectly good meat. But I had an idea; I would use it for a pot of not beans, but risotto.
Ham and egg risotto
½ cup country ham trimmimgs, cut bite-size
½ onion, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine
3 ½ cups chicken stock (approx)
12 ounces frozen peas and carrots, thawed
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup butter
3 cups raw baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
Heat one heavy saucepan to medium-high.
Put stock into another saucepan, and set to medium-low. You only want the stock to simmer, turn down if it starts to boil.
Put oil, ham, and onion into another saucepan, and sauté until the onion releases its water, and starts to caramelize. Add Arborio and toss until the rice starts to toast and a little browning occurs on the pan bottom.
While the risotto ingredients are browning, put a shallow bottom pan on the stovetop poach eggs. Fill with water, and add vinegar. Turn on medium and bring to very gentle simmer.
Back at the rice pot; pour in wine, and toss until the wine cooks out. Constantly stirring, add about ½ cup of hot stock to rice until the liquid is absorbed, then add more. After about 2 1/2 cups stock, start tasting for doneness.
At this point, start poaching eggs n the simmering water, 3 at a time for about 4 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon, and place on clean kitchen towel to keep warm, and dry.
When the rice is cooked through, add peas and carrots, butter and cheese. Gently stir until butter is melted.
To plate: Lay a big handful of spinach on plate, then spoon about 2 cups risotto over spinach and place 2 poached eggs on top. Serves 3.
This dish is very versatile. You could eat it for any meal, and if you have any rice left, it heats up very well in a microwave with a little water added. Or, you could make cakes, or arancini, which are breaded and fried rice balls, each one stuffed with a piece of mozzarella.
Oh yeah, the ham hocks needed for the rice?
I found them on that ham kiosk in the back of the grocery store.
Thanks for your time.