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Dec 15, 2006 02:51 AM

What to do with a calf's foot?

I just realized that the polish grocer down my street has fresh calf's feet--I know they used to be used to make "calf's foot jelly" or homemade jello, but I'm wondering if there's anything more delicious anyone knows of--would they add good body to a beef or veal stock, for instance?

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  1. You are absolutely right about calve's feet adding body to stocks. When we make stocks at the restaurant, we add two or three to each stock to extract the gelatin. That way when we reduce the stocks for sauces, they thicken naturally. Also, I love to braise a calf foot similar to the way you braise a pig trotter. Simmer it in a bit of stock with some fresh mirepoix and spices, herbs, garlic, etc., until it is falling off the bone. I then pick the "meat" from the bone and julienne it. It can then be used in any number of ways, but my favorite is a dish I have run at several restaurants, usually on the tasting menu. I take some carrot, celery and leek and dice them into brunoise, or even smaller. Smash a few garlic cloves and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Throw in a sprig of rosemary and thyme and put over low heat so the vegetables start to cook. Keep cooking (basically frying) until the vegetables start to turn a little golden and add a can of good whole, peeled tomatoes that have been crushed by hand. I throw in a handful of good whole olives and cook the tomatoes until thickened to a compote. Add a few spoonfuls of capers and season with salt and pepper. Pull out the olives, pit them and throw them back in. Add the sliced calve's feet and continue to cook very slowly for another ten minutes. Finish with some chopped parsley and the stew is done. I put a little dollop into a bowl and put a nice seared sea scallop on top and sauce with a bit of sweet garlic jus finished with parsley puree. A little salad of burnet greens on top is a good foil to the richness. And if you want to really gild the lily, a paper thin slice of crisped pancetta is a great garnish. To be honest, I learned this method from Daniel Boulud and Alex Lee when I was a cook at Daniel in NYC. It's a great way to elevate a "throw away" cut. It's a lot of work, but worth it.

    Also you can braise the foot like above and pull the meat from the bone. But instead of slicing it, lay it out on a sheet tray to cool and press it gently while chilling. When cool, cut into squares, brush with dijon, bread them and pan fry them lightly. Great with a little salad. MMMMMMM gelatin.

    3 Replies
    1. re: peepswang

      Wow! Thanks so much, this is exactly what I was looking for. Sounds fantastic--thanks for the help!

        1. re: peepswang

          This is the most ridiculous preparation of any foot i've ever heard...i wish i could try it but I don't think i have what it takes... :)

        2. Many years ago, my mother made this dish she called "percha" (not sure of the correct spelling). However, she made it by boiling calfs bones with TONS of garlic cloves, and salt. Then she STRAINED it, let it cool slightly, then added sliced eggs. It was then refrigerated in a 12 x 12 x 3 disposable pan. It turned into a very firm jello. Cut into large cubes and served It was absolutely delicious! I was never able to replicate it. Does it sounds familiar to anyone? I've tried googling the recipe but have not come up with anything similar.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Melanie61

            My Aunt Frances called it "Ptcha" or maybe "Pecha". These transliterations can get a little iffy. I may have the recipe but don't think so because I just couldn't deal with the idea of jellied calf's foot. Come to think of it, neither could anyone else in the family except one of her sons-in-law. I don't remember there being sliced eggs in it but Frances made it every Passover just for that one son-in-law.

            1. re: rockycat

              Rockycat...Thank you so much for your post. Finally, someone who has heard about "Percha". I seems like a pretty awful dish but for some strange reason I really liked it. Can you manage to see if you by some strange chance have the recipe somewhere? I've tried to google it without much luck. Happy Holidays! Melanie

              1. re: rockycat

                After I sent you my initial post I actually found a website for the dish. Maybe you can share it with that one son-in-law (haha).
                Thanks for the correct spelling. Here is the link: Happy Holidays! Melanie

            2. A traditional soup in Ecuador is Mondongo or Caldo de Patas.
              My kids used to call it "Cow Foot Soup" when we lived there. It was made with milk and hominy.
              Very tasty but disconcerting when the whole, recognizable hoof was in the serving tureen. My husband said he didn't really want to know that his food came from a black and white cow.
              After that, I just had the soup served from the kitchen.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                Used to make Panamanian "cow's foot" soup for a friend per his recollection of grandma's recipe. Blanched a couple feet, then cooked w/ lots of onion, garlic, and yucca. The herb I think was dried thyme. When really well cooked, added some drop dumpling dough and steamed till set. The texture of the meat was unctuous, the yucca absorbed the gelatin and was really tasty, and the soft dough dumplings added a different note.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  I've had this once in Ecuador, and tried to copy it at home a number of times. I cook the foot till tender, and store the meat and broth separately in the fridge. To make soup, I saute onions, garlic, cumin, etc (a refrito, a bit like mirepoix or salpicon), add the meat, and broth (i.e. stiff jello), and hominy. Peanut butter thinned with a bit of milk is added at the end to give it that special Ecuadorian touch.

                  I also like a generous portion of feet in my Mexican menudo (tripe stew).


                2. Take 3 lbs of tripe. Clean it good by removing any extra fat. Cut into pieces about 1-1/2" and soak in some water and lemon juice for about an hour. Rinse well and place tripe into a fairly large pot. Add the cow's foot (pata) and water to fill the pan about 2" from the top. Bring soup to a boil and then turn heat down to a rolling simmer. Add salt and garlic (either fresh or powdered). Simmer for about three hours and check a piece of tripe for doneness. If it is tender and not chewy, add a couple of cans of Mexican style hominy, drained. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. You have a nice pot of menudo. We eat it "white." A lot of people add a large can of red chile sauce (like Las Palmas) to make a red menudo. It's a matter of choice. The cow's foot is what gives the menudo its rich broth.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Neta

                    Neta, I am fortunate enough to live close to an authentic Taqueria that serves terrific Menudo for breakfast on the weekends. I do wonder why so few people never try this delicious dish. It's addictive.