Ham Shank Recipe with Garden Herbs. How to Cook Smoked Ham on the Bone in a Pressure Cooker
Ham shanks are an intimidating piece of meat. When you're roaming the shelves of the meat department searching for inexpensive but delicious victuals, they're never your first choice.
First of all, they're unwieldy. Piled together on the lower shelves in their thick plastic wrappers, they're more like Thanksgiving Turkeys, a special occasion meal, than the nice orderly pork chops displayed at eye level.
Just a glance at their bulk raises a host of questions: How will I cook it? How long will I cook it? How can I even fit it in my pan/pot/oven? What will I do with it when it's done?
Ham shanks are one of the healthiest, most affordable choices for meal preparation.
With the help of a pressure cooker, you can cook them quickly and disassemble them easily. You'll have flavorful lunch meat for sandwiches with much less sodium than your store-bought options, ham slices with less fat than standard breakfast bacon, and plenty of extras to season greens, beans or other healthy second-meals.
Herbs - the Magic Ingredient
Fresh garden herbs are the key to a super-delicious, easy-to-prepare ham shank. Well, herbs and a pressure cooker.
Under pressure, the herbs release their oils and aroma to infuse the meat and fats of the ham shank. The flavor isn't a typical sauce; it's infused deep into the meat. The drippings in the bottom of the pan will have the strongest flavor, and you can use them as an instant sauce for serving.
But what types of herbs should you use? A good rule of thumb is to use anything super-savory.
- Rosemary is a top choice. It's fragrance is a perfect complement to ham.
- Lavender is a decent stand-in for rosemary. The flavor isn't better or worse, just different.
- Purple Basils (Thai, Cinnamon,etc) are a surprise success. They have a strong savory flavor that intrigues the taste buds without overpowering the ham.
Other herbs probably work as well. The important thing to remember is that you can't go wrong as long as you use fresh herbs. You can't overpower the meat, because the herbs diffuse into the fat. You can't really ruin the fat run-off, because it's fat. When you use it for beans or greens, it'll taste just like fat's supposed to taste.
So experiment freely, choose your flavors less-than-wisely, and keep me posted on awesome (or disastrous) combinations.
- 2 handfuls Fresh Herbs, (Lavender, Rosemary, Basil, etc)
- 1 Smoked Ham Shank Bone-in, (plastic part removed)
- 3 Large Onions, (chopped)
- 1 tbsp Butter or Olive Oil to Caramelize Onions
- Place pressure cooker on stove. Turn on heat. Melt butter in pressure cooker. Add chopped onions. Stir. CLOSE THE LID and wait for the onions to smell caramelized.
- In the meantime, make a series of deep cuts in the ham shank meat - deeper is better. Stuff the cuts with herbs. LEAVE THE HERBS ON THEIR STEMS. This will make it much easier to fish them out later, and has no impact on their flavor.
- When you smell cooking onions, run the pressure cooker under cold water to depressurize it. Open the lid. Stir up the onions (they'll all turn brown as you stir). Drop in the ham shank however it'll fit, but preferably meat side down. Close the lid. Put pressure cooker on stove. Go do something else.
- 30 minutes is more than enough time to cook the ham, but you can't really overcook it so leave it in as long as you like. In some cases, you're just waiting for the fat to render, because the ham is already cooked.
- Remove the ham using tongs. BE CARFEUL. The grip can be precarious, because the meat will fall off the bone.
Serving the Ham Shank - Meal #1
First, you have to decide whether you want everyone to know you cooked a ham shank. If you're proud of your accomplishment and want to show it off, layer a plate with lettuce or greens, place the ham shank in the middle and serve with a couple knives and forks on the edges for serving. Spoon a bit of caramelized onions and drippings over the top for an easy sauce that captures the full flavor of the herbs.
The sight of the ham shank will be a shocker, but as soon as guests realize how easily the meat separates from the bone and how delicious it is, they'll dig right in. Guests can serve themselves salad from the lettuce bed. If you're hosting a healthy bunch, use a Mesclun mix and add carrots, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables around the edges. Garnish with toasted nuts and sprouts for a complete meal. Guests can serve themselves family style and you'll only have one serving dish to clean.
If you're feeling a bit embarrassed that you succumbed to the lure of a massive hunk of meat (we can't all be pescatarian?) slice the meat from the bone before serving.
To completely obscure the meat's origins, grill the slices on a panini grill or pan-fry them like bacon. Then serve them like run-of-the-mill ham slices. They make great breakfast sandwiches. You can also chop them for omelettes, shred them for lunch meat, or dice them for topping salads.
Pork and Beans - Meal #2
When the meat is gone, and all that's left is the bone, it's time for Meal #2.
Dump a 16oz bag of black beans (unsoaked) in the pressure cooker (on top of the onions and fat). Add about 3 liters of water. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes.
Meal #2 is as delicious as Meal #1. The beans make a great topping for rice, or make an excellent dip for tortilla chips. Use them in tacos or burritos, serve over mixed vegetables, or mix with cheese for quesadillas. You can even use them as a layer in lasagna.
If you're not sure what to do with them, just freeze them in plastic baggies. They're much easier to clean-up than the original mixture of onion and fat.
One day, you'll be ridiculously hungry and they'll be waiting.