Pork and Beans
Six to eight servings
Ham hocks are available at butcher shops and well-stocked grocers. You can either use fresh or smoked. Just a note that in the United States, some are heavily smoked, and their flavor can obliterate the delicate flavor of the white beans. So depending on your preference, use what you like. Because the pre-cooked and smoked hocks are salted, you might not need to add much salt to the dish. If you can’t get ham hocks, a big slab of pork belly works well. For faster cooking, soak the beans overnight in a Dutch oven, a very large casserole, or stockpot, covered with cold water. I use about double the amount of water, per volume of beans, for soaking. Because beans vary, you’ll need to watch the beans and pork as they’re cooking, and add more water if necessary. One nice addition to this dish is a few generous handfuls (about 2 cups) of chopped greens, such as kale, Swiss chard, or mustard greens, added during the last ten minutes of cooking.
1 pound (450g) dried white beans, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
10 branches of fresh thyme
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-3 (3-pounds, 1.3kg) ham hocks
1. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. (See headnote.) The next day, add the bay leaf and thyme to the soaked beans in the pot along with 8 cups (2l) of water.
2. Bring the beans to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add the diced carrots and onions, garlic, and ham hocks. Let the beans come to a boil again.
3. Once they’ve come to a boil reduce the heat so the beans are cooking at a lively simmer and let cook until the beans are tender, adding about 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the beans when they start to soften, about three-quarters of the way into cooking. My beans usually take about 2 hours to cook, but they can take less time or more. (Figure 1 to 3 hours.) While they’re cooking, make sure the beans and ham hocks are covered with water. Add more, if necessary.

Serving: Remove the hocks from the beans and set them on a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the bones, discarding the bones and skin, and add the pieces of pork back to the beans. Rewarm the pork and beans together, then ladle into serving bowls. Top with aillade, pesto, or chopped parsley, if desired.

Storage: The pork and beans can be refrigerated for up to four days. Rewarm on the stovetop, adding more water and salt, if necessary.