Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mission: Pigs Feet

As of this week we're putting the low-hanging fruit on hiatus for the week and going for one of the namesake recipes of he Album... along with, as you may have seen, some decadently mashed potatoes. Wish us luck.

Let's get ready to meeeeeeeeeezz!

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Those are four, count'em, four pig's trotters and shanks, all from the front of the beast. We had the trotters and shanks cracked at the butcher, and stuck them all into our stock pot along with an undetermined quantity of pork stock.

Meanwhile, we whipped up a nice emulsion that will become part of the sauce a little later. Whisk it real good!

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And then we stuck it in the fridge (to keep it away from the dog, mostly). After some simmer time, we pulled the pig parts to find these:

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And it was at this point that Melissa started the important work of separating the meat from the bone of the shanks (easy!) and the meat and other bits from the trotters (not so much meat!). Sadly, Jacob was out running some errands while this was happening, so no pictures are available of this particular task; and perhaps that's for the better. Let's just say knuckles are not so photogenic. Maybe next time...

Anyway, at this point we took some of the stock that we had been simmering the shanks and trotters in, and started it on a reduction:

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And while this was happening we took the trotter meat and bits (with a little shank meat added for good measure), stuck it in the food processor (knowing our "chopping" skills are not quite on par with a professional cook), and then put it in a bread pan, just like Rice Krispy Treats. PorKrispy Treats.

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And then we chilled it for a little while. Now it was time to reassemble the shanks using caul fat, a process that Jacob had been gleefully looking forward to for some time. We got a pound of it at our favorite backup butcher, and soaked it in cold water for about 30 minutes or so:

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And then we drained it, and put together our shank and fat station:

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And then Jacob played with the caul fat for a moment:

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And then he got to work. It was actually very easily done, and soon all four shanks were wrapped up in the stuff:

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And it was time to move on to the sauce. And what a sauce! Like so many other things, this was based in tomatoes, onions, and stock; but this was all placed on top of the four shanks in our big copper pan:

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And into the oven it all went. Now we worked on the potatoes for a while, and then we came back to our PorKrispy treats. We cut them into eight pieces (the original recipe called for four, but we thought that more would be better):

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And then we got them ready for battering:

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While Jacob was doing this bit, Melissa pulled the pan from the oven and set the shanks aside:

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And reduced the sauce for a while (we should be used to this by now!) and eventually whisked in that yummy emulsion we made some time ago:

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(Yes, our range is filthy at this point... we'll work on working clean in a coming post... maybe.)

The little PorKrispy Treats are now ready for the hot oil:

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And so they go in. Now things start to happen very quickly as they turn golden brown in something like 60 seconds:

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During this time we lay a base of mashed potatoes on the plates, and pull the shanks from the oven (they've been keeping warm there), and place them on the starch. Then we ladle some sauce over the whole thing, and put the piping hot little PorKrispies on top, and put a dollop of mustard on each one, and we come up with this:

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The plating makes it clear how pressed for time we were at the end, but then it's not a bad thing when everything is ready at exactly the same time, right? The better to eat you with, my dear!

The PorKrispies were the consensus winner of this dish. They had the advantage of being deep fried - which can do no wrong, after all - but more than that, they had a surprising and somewhat delicate taste that was quite unique from the rest of the dish. They reminded Jacob of scrapple, which was strange since he's never had that, or at least thinks he's never had it. (Though the PorKrispies were probably of higher quality than the "bar mat of meat" which some members of this family believe scrapple to be.)

The potatoes were wonderful, as mentioned in our another post, and made a great foil for the excess of sauce that we piled on the dish.

There was some debate about the shanks. The caul fat did not render as we thought it would. This didn't bother some eaters, but it did bother some others. (Note from a not liker: It was sort of like pudding skin. Not offensive, just not a texture that improves upon anything. I want my fat crispy and rendered! So, this made the shank a little less popular than the PorKrispy.) The shank meat was, however, fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked. In the end the consensus was that, if anything, it suffered only from comparison to the PorKrispies and the potatoes; and as time has passed our collective memory of the entire dish has improved significantly. (And one of us not-caul-likers might have even poked around the fridge for leftovers, before remembering that our lovely guests were actually given a Happy Meal of leftovers to take home. Darn us for being so nice!)

Note to selves: After a lot of discussion we decided (though we know close to nothing about caul fat, having never tried it to our knowledge and certainly never cooked with it, but decided nonetheless) that the caul fat didn't render for two reasons - first, that it wasn't at room temperature when we wrapped the shanks, and second, because we placed it under the sauce components when we put it in the oven, not really allowing the heat to penetrate through the layers and layers of tomatoes and onions as much as it should have. Next time we will be mindful of the rendering dynamics!

Time, mis to eat: About eight hours, four of those being the pig's feet boiling and cooling to the touch. And we also did take about a two hour break in between to clean the attic while everything was at a good stopping point. (Though, we should have brought things up to room temp before carrying on! That will teach us to have a glass of wine and get distracted by shiny objects!) So, maybe from start to finish... about 6 hours, only 2 being active.

Cost of the components of the dish: We give up! Tracking money spent on this project has become depressing and well, not really worth it because we're going to keep on cooking stuff, even if it's spendy. So from here forward we are canceling this section of the post. Adieu section of this post!

Next week: PDC Foie Burger (#6)

Blast from the past (or visit from the future, really): PDC Mashed Potato

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