Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ponce - have you ever cooked it?

photo courtesy of Teet's Food Store with permission.
Maybe I should ask you if you know what ponce is. Do you?

First, let me tell you the story about how I got this particular food item. You see, a few months ago - or heck, it was more than that - I was sent some lovely Cajun meats from Teets Food Store through the blog group 37 Cooks. One of the things I received was smoked ponce.

Well, when I got that ponce, I was in the midst of my husband's health crisis. That hunk of ponce was pretty big for just me.

I thought about whacking off a bit and cooking just a little of it, but then I decided to save it so I could share the whole experience with my husband. He's always interested in trying new foods, and this was truly a new food for both of us.

You see, ponce is sort of like a smoked pork sausage, but it's stuffed into a pig stomach. Yep, that's what it is. It's no weirder than sausage stuffed into an intestine, but it does have an ... interesting ... shape.

But how the heck do you cook it?

Let me tell ya, there's not a huge array of recipes for cooking ponce, but I found a few suggestions. And then I figured, hey, it's not much different than other pork products I've worked with. I decided to make a really simple version so the ponce wouldn't be overwhelmed by other flavors.

On night one, I served the ponce simply sliced  with some rice on the side. And then I started using it in other recipes. More recipes will be coming along soon. Very soon.

Braised Ponce

Ponce, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ponce (about 3 pounds)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or similar heavy pot on medium heat on the stove. Add the ponce and brown on all sides. Or, seriously, since this thing is so odd-shaped, brown it as well as you can.

Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until they are fragrant and beginning to soften. Add the water, slap the lid on, and cook for 2 hours.

Since I had no idea what ponce was all about, I wasn't sure what to do with the "skin" I removed some string that was tying the openings shut, and then I sliced it. I could slice through the skin really easily, but it wasn't something I particularly wanted to chew on. So there ya go. Discard the skin, I guess.

Note: if you read the comments, you'll see that the casing is edible and some people say it's the best part, so we'll go with "personal preference" on that one. If it was more crisp, I would have liked it better, so maybe next time I'll either brown it more ahead of time or crisp it more after cooking.

The cooking liquid made a spicy, flavorful "gravy" to serve with the meat and rice.

The ponce I got was the "plain" version; Teet's also sells a cheese and jalapeno version. The one I got was a little bit spicy but not blazingly hot. Really tasty. Very versatile. Highly recommended.