Sunday, September 16, 2012

Long-Simmered Roma Beans with Ham Hock

At Montgomery Farmers' Market this past weekend I bought a quart each of yellow and green Roma beans (also known as Italian green beans, Romano, or flat beans) from White Oak Valley Farm and a ham hock from TS Farms.  This is one of my favorite after-market dishes.  I've made it nearly every week since the Romas started coming in.  It's simple and while the cooking time is long, the prep is quick. 

Long-Simmered Roma Beans with Ham Hock

2 quarts Roma beans (I love it when I can use yellow and green -- they look pretty together.)
1 t olive oil
1 c finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ham hock
1/4 t cayenne (optional)
1/4 t salt plus more to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Snap the stem end of the bean off.  The other end you can leave -- it's the end with the little curl on it like this (I forgot to photograph a raw bean, so this one had already been cooked):

Then snap each bean into pieces about 2" long.

In an 8-quart pot, heat oil and saute onions and garlic until the onion is translucent.   Add the beans, the ham hock, 1/4 t cayenne, and 1/4 t salt.  (Don't oversalt at this point -- the pork hock contains some salt, too, which will be released into the broth as the beans cook.) I usually start the onions and garlic, then once they're cooked I turn off the heat and just snap the beans right into the pot.

Fill with water to barely cover the beans (if the ham hock is sticking out, no worries -- just turn it over a couple of times during the cooking process), bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer (you want to see the smallest amount of bubbling you can manage while still seeing some bubbling), and let simmer for 3 hours -- yes, THREE HOURS -- adding additional water as needed to keep the beans barely covered.

Amazingly Roma beans won't turn mush with this length of cooking.  They just become very tender. 

Once the meat has pulled away from the bone, remove the hock from the water, pull the meat from the bones, and shred the meat, removing any fat or gristle.

Return the shredded meat to the pot to continue cooking.  Taste and add fresh ground black pepper plus additional salt if needed.  Serve beans in their 'pot liquor' -- the broth.  I like to serve it with a salad and good bread to mop up the broth for a rustic light (and very cheap) dinner.

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