This smoky, stick-to-your-ribs stew comes from JBF Award winner Jose Garces.
- 1 1/4 pounds (about 2) smoked ham hocks
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed, leaves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 cups canned puréed plum tomatoes
- 2 cups water
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, tied together with kitchen string
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast the smoked ham hocks until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pot over very low heat. Add the garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red chili flakes and thyme; cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the puréed tomatoes, water, and smoked ham hocks; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; add the bay leaf and basil. Simmer until the ham hocks are very tender and falling apart, about 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the ham hocks from the stew and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred the meat and skin. Roughly chop the meat and skin into bite-sized pieces and return to the pot. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.