If you’re squeamish about unconventional animal parts, consider yourself forewarned.
In this month’s post from local chefs Diana Kudayarova and Tse Wei Lim of Journeyman in Somerville, Tse Wei shares with us their ‘go’ at preparing pigs’ feet, or trotters.
Tse Wei Lim
PRK Guest Contributor
It sounds silly, but part of the reason we started Journeyman was to undertake all those cooking projects we’d never managed to nail at home, for want of material, know-how or, simply, time and opportunity. Since cooking a pig’s head is practically a rite of passage for serious home cooks these days, this isn’t really a long list, but a satisfactory stuffed pig’s trotter was one dish that had eluded us for a while.
A big part of the problem was simply the trotters available to us – generally somewhat beaten up, with large gashes in them from the singletree at the abbatoir or with the pads cut off by hurried butchers, they basically lacked the structural integrity to stuff properly. Worse still, when boned out, the amount of meat they yielded was completely inadequate for making anything like the quantity of stuffing needed to do the job properly.
At Journeyman, we have several things we didn’t have at home: a whole lot of trotters; the opportunity to butcher our own animals and thus cut the trotters with our end goal in mind; and, Jared, a cook of great brilliance and derring-do.
Jared’s insight was that if you have enough feet, you’ll have a few that are sufficiently intact to stuff and, more importantly, you’ll have plenty of other feet to turn into stuffing — two problems which are rather intractable at home solve each other in a restaurant. Thus encouraged, we embarked on a trotterpalooza in early February, which went something like this:
1. Dig through the freezer and excavate a huge pile of trotters – 31, to be precise (we believe #32 went to the dog).
2. Find that 7 of them are intact enough to stuff, and have in fact been boned out with that very purpose in mind.
3. Chuck the other 24 into a low oven, with plenty of mirepoix, a little water, and a good bit of salt and pepper. Braise until picking them apart is easy.
4. Take the braised feet apart, and pulse all the meaty, ligamenty chunks into a food processor. The meat breaks apart enough to reveal all the ligaments and other things you want to pick out and discard. This, a technique Jared introduced us to, saves a great deal of rooting around and later regret at having missed a crunchy bit here and there.
5. Shred the results into a coarse forcemeat, and bind it with some bread soaked in stock and an egg or two – just enough binder to get the mixture to hold together.
6. Stuff the other 7 trotters. We sealed the openings with meat glue, then wrapped them with athletic bandages to keep their shape during cooking (this part required one person to hold the trotter and the stuffing together, and another to wrap them).
7. Cook the stuffed trotters sous vide for 12 hours.
8. Crisp them in a hot oven, being careful to rinse off the gelatin first.
We served these as a shared entree on Valentine’s weekend, for people to feed their dates while staring soulfully into each others’ eyes.