Hey guys, I’ve got an AMAZING one-pot meal for you. Most meals around here are some variation of this with either pork, steak, or chicken. And a pile of veggies on the side. With so much creativity in the kitchen required for work, I don’t have a lot left for our regular meals.
Still, sometimes I stand at the butcher counter and nothing is calling to me, so I start scoping out the stuff I don’t usually buy. On Friday, it was pouring (because, Portland) and I was at New Seasons Market for probably the 4th time that week, stocking up for upcoming recipes, when I saw these little smoked ham hocks hiding in the corner of the case. Suddenly soup sounded amazing — it had been awhile — so here we are.
Ham hocks! A little nose-to-tail eating, I suppose, since you don’t see them in recipes much these days. A piece of the pig just above the foot. It’s a tough piece of meat with quite a bit of connective tissue. But it’s always fairly small so the low-and-slow that’s required is not so lengthy. I grew up on split pea and ham soup so this takes me back to the days of smelling that smoky ham flavor permeating the kitchen.
So it’s Saturday and I had a lovely (loud) Spotify radio station going. I was pleasantly chopping my veggies and I realize I threw my sweet potatoes into a pot that’s about to cook for 2+ hours. I thought, crap, crap, crap, crap. I’m never going to be able to blog this now. No one wants to read about sweet potato baby food! I thought about scooping all the sweet potatoes out but promptly realized how ridiculous that would be. The things blogging does to your brain, I tell you.
I left them in and can I say, WOW! This went from “soup” to “stew” and in the best way possible. Normally I would add the sweet potato in at the end of the cooking time so they’ll have a bit of bite to them but this was a happy accident, for sure. The sweet potato broke down quite a bit and added a yummy thickness that borders on creamy. And of course, all that flavor.
(And yes, that’s a parmesan rind. You can read more about it in the recipe below.)
Smoked Ham Hock & Sweet Potato Stew
1 medium onion, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. white wine (can sub extra broth)
4 c. bone broth, stock, or water
1-2 smoked ham hocks
4″ pastured parmesan rind (optional)*
herb bouquet with sage, rosemary, and bay leaves
½ lb. uncured cooked ham (optional for extra meat)
1 large bunch kale, chopped
Place a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel for later use.
Add the onion, celery, and sweet potato to the pot (into the bacon grease) and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the white wine and scrape down the bottom of the pot for any browned bits.
Add the bone broth (water can but used given how much flavor the ham hock will yield), ham hock, parmesan rind (if using), and herb bouquet to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, and turn the heat to low. You can adjust the liquid to make sure the ham is nearly covered. Cook for 2 hours undisturbed, or until the meat on the hock begins to fall off the bone.
Scoop out the herb bouquet and parmesan rind (the rind can be used again). Remove the ham hock and shred the meat. Add the meat back to the pot along with the ½ lb. cooked ham and chopped kale. Cook for 3-5 minutes to soften the kale and warm the chopped ham. Crumble the reserved bacon and use it to top the stew. Serve immediately and keep extras in the fridge for up to a week.
*Notes: adding a parmesan rind to a slow cooking stew is a classic Italian technique to add a unique savory flavor. I only do this on occasion — a few times a year or so — because I feel it adds something special. Our local market sells the rinds on their own and if you ask, yours would likely be able to provide them too. In regards to paleo and cheese, etc etc etc: parmesan is a naturally raw cheese, meaning the process does not require high heat. It’s also aged longer than most cheeses so the lactose content is next to zero. Even with a previously strong dairy intolerance, I seem to do ok with low-lactose dairy. And as always, try to get your cheese from pastured animals raised without growth hormones!