Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
I happily accept all stones being tossed my way at this moment. I know. I should be ashamed of myself for 1. watching this movie, 2. finishing this movie, 3. liking this movie. But you see, I was doomed from the beginning. Anything to do with the dirty streets and humid thickness of Havana, Cuba, I will love. Hands down. Not to mention that the lead dude in that movie is hot HOT. So when I decided to do a little freezer cleaning, one of the first things to go was the ham bone from Christmas. I don't like to throw away bones. I don't know, it's my thing. Its like my foraging instincts kick in and I must utilize all parts of the sacrificed animal or something. With bones, I am always looking to make a stock. Chicken stock, beef stock, fish stock... pork stock? Hmmm, it was so interesting to me that I'd never really heard of pork stock. Kitchen Basics didn't sell that one. Was I onto something?
I started with the same method I used for chicken stock. I roughly chopped a large onion, a few carrots and some celery stalks. I plunked the ham bone into a large pot because I was sure I could get quite a bit of fat off it to soften the veggies. I rendered the fat, then removed the ham bone. I added my vegetables to the pot and let them colour a bit deeper than I do for chicken stock, I thought it would add something. Anything. Midway through, I added the hame bone back to the stock. I lowered the heat to medium low and filled up my stock pot with ice cold water. Just like Anthony Bourdain told me to do. I let it simmer and never let it come to a boil. This was around 8pm. At 3am, I went down to the kitchen and turned everything off. I am not recommending you do this. It is not a culinary technique. It's worrywart laziness, pure and simple. If I weren't so neurotic, I might have let it go all night, but I'm the kind of girl who can't have something on the stove or in a crockpot while asleep or out of the house. It's never going to happen. Well, intentionally.
I let the stock cool, put a lid on it and stuck it in the 'fridge.
The next day, I had a stock with a thick layer of fat on the top. Because I wanted to keep the fat content to a minimum, this was the most fulfilling step of all. I could literally "peel" all the fat of the top! It was like being the best lipo surgeon in Hollywood and all that was left was dark, rich pork stock. I drained all the vegetables and leftover ham and put it aside. I strained whatever was leftover and into the freezer it went. Done and done!
OK, so while I used most of the first batch in my experimentation with Xiao Long Bao (post: "The Easy Way") and the glories of gelatin stock, homemade wontons and soup dumplings, I used the second for what I'd originally intended. To give flavour to my slow cooked beans.
For some reason, I really like practicing patience and cooking some foods slowly and deliberately over very low heat. Some talk about that "slow food" movement, but I think that's bullshit. It's just called cooking. Anyway, beans are one of these foods. I discovered the method by accident, actually... I hadn't "prepared" my beans by soaking them in water overnight, so I thought I'd just take my chances and simmer hard beans and see if they came out at all edible . I plopped a couple of handfuls into a pot of water and forgot about it. Literally. All night. I didn't remember until I smelled the beans cooking away on the stove early the next morning. Totally unintentional!
Dear Ed at State Farm Insurance,
You did not read this.
Due to my negligence coupled with the fact that I'd barely even turned on the burner, I was gifted with creamy, soft, red kidney beans. Creamy beans using only water! So when I decided to make this pork stock, I'd kind of already reserved some of it for making red beans. I could hardly wait to see the result I'd get.
Funny enough, I suppose I should have been keen enough to know exactly what I was going to get. It didn't hit me until my red beans with pork stock started to take on that soft, thick, creamy hand about them (the ultimate goal) that I realized I'd created nothing new. As the fragrant beans enveloped my home with a warm, familiar perfume, I became horrified.
That was the familiar smell wafting from my kitchen. When I realized what it was, I burst out laughing. I'd slaved over what so many buy in a can. Buy in a can to feed cousin Cleetus and Junior. In my hoity toity attempt to breathe the humid streets of Havana into my culinary efforts, I'd managed to channel Appalachia instead and create probably the most laughable American side dish imaginable. No offense, Appalachia.
So I take away the humbling message that, no, this is not new, and no, Lesley, you are not the first to discover such things abut food and ingredients, namely pork stock. But I'll let the creativity keep coming and revel in the innocent wonder that comes from knowing a simple truth. That if you combine a, b and c, the result is divine. Not to mention, honestly, who doesn't like a side of beans at a barbecue? I'll have mine over brown rice with a bit of green onion, however.
Much more my style.