Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pig trotters - pied de cochon


I am reading many blogs these days and some of them are extremely inspiring. Recently, Brett discussed his recent experiment with pig trotters on his excellent blog: In Praise of Sardines. If for some weird reason you haven’t been there yet, go have a look now. You must admit that Brett knows how to attract his reader’s interest. As for myself, I totally fell for his version of Thomas Keller’s pig trotters’ recipe. I just had to replicate it… at least in my own way.

I had pig trotters before but they were presented to me whole and I had to eat those delicacies cave men style. I usually enjoy the simple joy of eating with my hands and getting messy but pig trotters are just impossible to eat decently even alone in a dark cave. When I saw the simple hockey puck presentation on In Praise of Sardines, I was simply amazed at how uncomplicated a solution to the usual sticky muckiness of pig trotters this was. In my mind, it also solved another problem that I associate with pig trotters: the fact that when eating them whole, you generally eat one part at the time; either you eat the skin, a tendon, some meat or that delicious slime surrounding the bones.

After reading Brett’s post, I knew I just had to cook pied de cochon. Fufu bought me a nice rear leg pig trotter at a local Chinese grocery store and I started working on my dish almost immediately. I pretty much followed the exact steps mentioned on In Praise of Sardines but let me recapitulate them for you here.

  1. Prepare your pig feet by washing them well and cutting them if necessary. I had to cut mine in two sections so that it could fit in my pot. A large chunk of shank was left on it providing a meatier piece than the foot itself.
  2. Boil your pig feet in water for a few minutes and discard the water.
  3. Place them back in cold water along with some aromatic vegetables of your choice. I personally opted for the usual celery, carrots and onion along with a bouquet garni (thyme, laurel and leek) a few juniper berries and a few cloves.
  4. Simmer for 3 hours. Drain the broth and keep it for another use (we have been using it for a few quick soups).
  5. Remove the skin, the meat, the gelatine and the tendons from the bones.
  6. Roughly chop the meat, gelatine and tendons together. Add chopped skin in a ratio of about 50% of the amount of meat, gelatine and tendons.
  7. Mix in a bowl adding cooked chopped shallots, some Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. To give the dish a fresher taste, I also added minced parsley stems to this combination of ingredients.
  8. Place the mixture in circular moulds and refrigerate; in a few hours, the gelatine will set and the hockey puck will be much easier to work with. I do not own any circular moulds so I used cookie cutters and a few empty tin cans that were opened on both sides.
  9. At this point, you can add bread crumbs and Dijon mustard on the top along with some chopped parsley (I am one of those weirdos who happen to love parsley but feel free to use other herbs of your liking)
  10. While Brett pan fried his pig trotter ‘pucks’, I decided to bake mine for a few minutes before placing them under broil to partly char the surface.

I served this dish with home made pickles and a quick relish made with chopped pickles, tomato concasse, anchovies, mustard and a touch of olive oil and sherry vinegar. Fufu, who is used to the Chinese version of pig trotters, loved this version and my guests that night seemed quite pleased too. As for myself, I am glad I served these as appetizers because although delicious this dish remains a bit on the heavy side. Much of that buttery mouth feel is caused by gelatine, not only fat, but after a whole puck I think it is time to move to something lighter and crunchy: a salad for instance.

Now the big question… would I cook it again? Absolutely! But again, I will serve it in small portions along with acidic ingredients (pickles, mustard, capers…). Serving wine with this dish could be a challenge and I am no expert here but I would opt for a fairly acidic and crisp white wine (e.g. a dry Riesling) but frankly a cold beer might work even better. Since I will almost certainly prepare pig trotters again in the future, I am open to suggestions as to how to prepare and serve them as well as to what beverage would best help the diners clean their mouth of the delicious unctuous tastes emanating from this dish.


neil said...

Great food, lucky not everybody likes them or they would be three times as expensive. Usually have them cooked under stuffed vine leaves, they give a great stickiness to the vine leaves and the added bonus of some hearty sucking and slurping on the trotter bones. Have seen recipes that would have you cook the trotters for days ~ I think three ~ and apparently you can eat bones and all. Oh, and congratulations on your paper chef win.

Louise said...

MagicTofu! Good job on winning the latest Paper Chef! Bravo!

Brett said...

Your pig's trotters look like they turned out great! I agree, they are super rich. The original Bouchon recipe called for rolling the mixture into a long cylinder in 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, chilling overnight, and then slicing. Then each round was breaded, as I mentioned. His recipe called for 4 hind legs, I believe, so he had a much higher yield. I ended up with so little from the front feet, so that's why I used the round thingies (a can or biscuit cutter was a great substitution). It would be easy to make smaller sized portions using the Bouchon method. Diva of Diva Cucina served her version of pig's trotter cold. See her recipe here. Also, big congratulations on your Paper Chef win!

yanyan said...

Well done. pleasant to both the palate and the eyes. It's almost a magical transformation of the gross looking pig trotters.

Walter Jeffries said...

Sadly most butchers throw away the trotters so it isn't something that one sees in the store or is even easy to obtain in many areas. I can get them, but then I raise pastured pigs, so it is easy. Thanks for the dinner idea!

Irish Sallygardens said...

Ah, the perfect recipe to try with my pigs trotters, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just the recipe I was looking for. Thanks!

Joe B said...

Thanks for the recipe; trying this out this weekend at Offalpalooza...

Anonymous said...

check out "boeyond nose to tail" by fergus henderson. there's a chapter: "trotter gear" that tells all. there's also chapter on pigs head.

Gary said...

As your local butcher and he will keep the trotters for you rather than trowing them away. The bonus is, my butcher gives me them free thather than throw them away!

Anonymous said...

You can also make a nice trotter sugo. I add finely chopped carrots & celery, and pine mushrooms when in season. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly with your pasta.