I woke up early to stop by the farmers’ market before work on Wednesday. I wanted some fresh bacon so I said hello to Mike from Tamarack Hollow Farm. He still remembers me as the girl who ordered half a suckling pig and a whole goose almost two years ago, and for that I remain loyal. With my nice slab of bacon, he also introduced me to a healthy-sized ham hock and rattled a recipe. I didn’t write it down but four days later, I made up a recipe using the three words I still remembered: fennel, tarragon and braise.
Braising is something I love to do during the colder months. Even though I used potatoes and beans in this recipe, the fennel and the tarragon made it more spring than winter. Instead of red wine, I splashed half a cup of the Austrian Gruner Veltliner I picked up from the store because of its beer cap and chubby bottle. The combination made a warm yet bright dish perfect for spring.
1 fresh ham hock
1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
3 sprigs of tarragon, stemmed
1 1/2 cup of white beans, soaked overnight
1 leek, chopped
a handful of baby carrots
4 white potatoes, peeled, quartered
1/2 cup of white wine
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Meanwhile, in a heated large Dutch oven, brown all sides of the ham hock until it has a nice golden color. Remove to a plate.
2. You should have some oil rendered from the ham hock. If there’s not a lot, add some oil and heat it up. Sauté the leeks until soft. Add the potatoes and cook until slightly brown. Add the tarragon, fennel and baby carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the wine and the beans. Let simmer until the liquid evaporates a little. Add the ham hock in the middle of the vegetables. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour. After an hour, turn the ham hock, cover again and braised for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pot rest, half-covered. When ready to serve, slice off the meat from the bone and serve with the vegetables.