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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Blogh, Food | 1 comment

Chinese Pork Shank and Turnip Greens

Chinese Pork Shank and Turnip Greens

Memorial Day weekend is a big weekend for cooking around my house. Not because we are into holidays, no. But we are into having 3 days off from work and the feeling, fleeting as it is, of leisure. It’s also a time of year when you can go to the farmer’s market and find a wide variety of vegetables. Two weeks ago the lettuce and other greens were still coming out of greenhouses. Now there is dirt in the leaves of beet greens, turnips, lettuce and Asian cabbages and mustards. We had a party on Saturday, with grilled octopus, squid and mackerel, braised beet greens, salad, black quinoa, black beans with lime and cilantro, and potato salad with dill. I added chopped scallions and garlic scallions to the beans and potatoes. While shopping for cured meats for the anti-pasta platter at the Piggery I noticed some wonderful pork shanks in the case. These were not cut like hocks. They were longer, cut higher on the shin bone, had the skin intact, enfolding a thick layer of snowy fat, and a portion of meat. About 6-8 inches long, and 4 or 5 inches across, they were irresistible. I decided to combine them with the gorgeous turnip greens I got at Blue Heron Farm. In the morning I put them on to simmer for four hours with spices and in the evening I made a simple soupy stew that was delicious and the true soul of Chinese cooking. What follows is really a method to be applied to any meat on the bone that needs long slow cooking and any green that you fancy.

Chinese Pork Shank and Turnip Greens

2 or more pork shanks or hocks, scored through the fat (don’t cut into the meat)

1 onion chopped

3T chopped ginger

1/4c chopped garlic

3 star anise

I 3 “ piece cinnamon stick

4 cardamom pods

a few pieces of dried tangerine peel

1t each: whole black peppercorns, coriander and Sichuan peppercorns

pinch salt

1/4c rice wine

Heat 2-3T vegetable oil in a heavy iron pot or casserole and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Stir-fry until soft, add the spice, stir, and then add the pork shanks. Turn then over I until they color slightly and then cover with water and add the rice wine and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to gentlest simmer. Braise, covered, for 4 hours. Take out the shanks, and strain the broth. Bring broth to a boil and let it reduce slightly, if it tastes too weak.

Remove the meat and fat from the bones. Pull the meat apart into bite sized pieces, and keep all of that fat. This is a Chinese dish, not an American one. The fat has a wonderful soft texture that adds immeasurably to the experience of the dish.


2 bunches spring turnips, (greens, with small, golf ball sized turnips)

10-12 dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for ½ hour, and sliced (save soaking liquid)

1 onion sliced

2T minced ginger

1/4c chopped garlic

¼ cup rice wine

2T vinegar

½ cup cilantro

½ cup chopped scallions and garlic scallions

2T fish sauce or soy sauce

1/4C sugar

Cut the turnips from the greens and soak the greens in enough changes of water to remove all dirt. Trim (don’t peel) the turnips. Chop the greens and cut the turnips into 2 or 3 pieces depending on the size. Heat 3T oil in the pot you coked the meat in. When hot add the onions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the simmering stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Add the pork into the pot. Add the mushrooms and the soaking liquid (you don’t have to strain the liquid, but do not pour the lees at the bottom of the bowl). When it comes up to a boil again add the turnips and greens. These will cook quickly. Add the rest of the ingredients when the turnips are done, 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft you like them. Serve over rice with hot sauce. the hot sauce I used was incendiary: a handful of dried red chilies, toasted in a frying pan and pounded in a mortar and pestle. Set aside. Add a pinch of salt to the mortar and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Pound to a paste. Pound together with the chilies, and moisten with about 1T of Chenkiang vinegar, pound some more, then add 1T of sesame oil, and then, while pounding, drizzle in enough safflower oil to make a paste. You can smell this across the room!



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