In this country the pork, or ham hock, was historically considered a castoff in fine kitchens, and was one of the cuts offered to the servants and slaves, or simply discarded as trash. It is only now entering our mainstream food culture as an interesting cut of meat. Regardless, many other cultures throughout the world have enjoyed this cut for centuries.
My travels through Asia exposed me to ways to broaden the use of ham hocks that I wasn't familiar with. At a friend's home I experienced ham hocks braised in a sweet sticky sauce. It was quite amazing, and when I returned to Atlanta, I came up with this recipe to create those flavors. The richness of the smoked pork hock marries well with the spices, and the cola (I use diet because the traditional cola is too sweet) reduces to a syrupy sauce that accents the pork perfectly. This dish can also be tweaked to work with your regular smoked picnic ham that you can find at any local supermarket.
Swap option: This recipe originally called for ham hock; this recipe has been changed to accommodate the use of a picnic ham. You can substitute orange marmalade for kumquat marmalade if desired.
Remove some of the salt in the smoked ham by cooking in a stockpot over medium heat for 30 minutes in enough water to cover.2.
Remove the ham from the water, dry it with paper towels and set aside to cool.3.
Once cooled, trim the fat layer down to about 1/4-inch.4.
Using a sharp knife, score the ham by cutting 1/3-inch lines through the fat layer across the ham, about 1 inch apart.5.
Turn the ham and repeat cutting crosswise to make a tic-tac-toe pattern.6.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.7.
Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions and ginger, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are translucent.8.
Stir in five spice powder, star anise, dry mustard, diet cola, 1/2 cup marmalade, red pepper flakes and cilantro. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.9.
Add ham and spoon a generous amount of the liquid over the ham.10.
Put the lid on the Dutch oven, place it in the preheated oven, to cook.11.
Open the lid and baste ham with the liquid about every 15-20 minutes while cooking.12.
Cook for 1¼ to 1¾ hours, or until the meat is tender but still moist.13.
Transfer the ham from the Dutch oven to a broiler rack.14.
Strain the liquid from the Dutch oven into a medium saucepan over medium heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the liquid becomes syrupy.15.
Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup kumquat marmalade.16.
Place the ham under an oven broiler for 5-7 minutes, or until the skin begins to char slightly.17.
Transfer from the broiler to a serving platter and pour the syrup over them. Serve over bitter greens of choice.