Photos by Francisco Nuñez
For most Filipinos, Christmas dinner comprises a season rather than just an evening. With the succession of spreads prepared by friends, in-laws, and your army of titas, you’ll want your own family’s feast to stand out. To start, that fiesta ham you’ll likely buy in the thick of the Christmas rush is tired and needs to go on a holiday.
Kicking our season’s eatings up a notch is Chef Kalel Chan of Raintree Restaurants. The group’s head chef is behind cosmopolitan comfort food hubs such as M Café, Mr. Jones, Chelsea, and the newly opened Chelsea Kitchen. Tying these concepts together are dishes that are hearty, refined, and a delight to share.
For Christmas dinner, the global, fired-up fare of Stella restaurant in Bonifacio Global City inspired a holiday hock recipe with a festive glaze of maple syrup, vanilla bean, and cinnamon bark. Way to bring the spice back to the Yuletide table and make your family get-together all the sweeter.
1 Pork Hock (3-4 Kg in weight, hoof foot removed)
¼ Cup Pink Salt
¾ Cup Rock Salt
½ Cup White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Mustard Seeds
1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Cloves
5 Liters Water
100 Grams Celery Stalks
1 Small White Onion
1 Medium Carrot
3 Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Black Pepperocorns
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Piece Cinnamon Bark
½ Vanilla Bean
Pinch of Salt
1. Wash, peel, and cube white onions, carrots, and celery. Split vanilla bean in half.
2. Remove excess hair from pork hock
3. In a medium-sized stock pot, combine pink salt, rock salt, white sugar, black peppercorns, cloves, and two liters of water. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and continue simmering until salts and sugar have dissolved.
4. Cool down brining mixture. Once cooled, transfer to a deep six-quart container.
5. Add pork hock to the brining liquid and cover with remaining water (3L). Cover container and leave to brine in refrigerator for 48 hours.
6. After the two-day brining period, remove pork hock from liquid and rinse in cool running water for two minutes. Set aside.
7. In a large stock pot, add onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf, peppercorns, and six liters of water.
8. Add pork hock. Make sure it is fully submerged in liquid. If not, add more water.
9. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for two hours or until meat is tender.
10. Once the pork hock is cooked, remove from pot and pat dry with a paper towel. Cool in a warm, dry area for one hour.
12. To prepare the glaze, combine maple syrup, salt, vanilla bean (make sure to scrape seeds from pod), cinnamon bark, and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
13. Over a roasting pan, place cooked pork hock on a cooling rack and brush with maple glaze.
14. Return pork hock to oven and roast for 10 more minutes. Remove, serve, and enjoy this season’s gustatory surprise with your loved ones.