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Favorite recipes for pig's feet?

  • c

To continue a trend that began with relatively innocuous liver, but quickly degenerated to include kidneys, gizzards, pig ears, marrow bone, and other horrors / delights, I am once again eyeing my dog's dinner and wondering if it's any good.

(Human) Chowhounds, do you eat and enjoy pig's feet?

I know of it as a soul food staple and I've come across a number of French and Italian preparations. What are you tried and true favorites?

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  1. My dad prepares it two ways:

    Simmered with Chinese black vinegar and thick slices of ginger.

    Simmered with water and red fermented bean curd, not the pale cubed kind flecked with chili. Also throw in sliced ginger and/or shiitake mushrooms.

    There's no recipe except to simmer the feet until they're fall-apart tender. I think he blanches them first (i.e. cover feet with water, bring to a boil, pour that off and cover with fresh water). The fat will render out while cooking and you can skim this off. I prefer the bean curd kind. It's one of my favorite foods.

    3 Replies
    1. re: stilton

      Stilton, thanks! Both preparations sound delicious. A few questions, if you have a moment to answer:

      For the first prep, do you water down the vinegar while cooking, or do you boil in water until mostly done and then simmer in vinegar -- or neither? (I'm just thinking that the vinegar would boil off quickly, and would have to be replenished frequently if you boil the pigs feet in it until tender.)

      For the second prep, does the bean curd go in from the outset, or only after the feet have cooked for a while?

      1. re: cimui

        I asked my dad for more details. Getting the steps was tricky since he cooks things on autopilot!

        In both preps, the pig feet should be chopped up into 3-4" pieces. Have the butcher do this since it's really hard to cut through the bones.

        For the vinegar one, blanch and rinse the pig feet, add peeled ginger slices (he uses half the volume of ginger to feet, but you can use however much you like), and then 1 bottle of black rice vinegar, and 1 bottle of sweet black rice vinegar. I didn't know there were two kinds of black vinegar. Anyway, he says there's no added water, just enough vinegar to cover, so you don't necessarily use up entire bottles. He tends to make a large batch at a time since it's time-consuming to cook and the stuff freezes well. If you keep the pot covered and keep it at a simmer (not boiling), there wouldn't be much in the way of evaporation. It's strongly-flavored as you can imagine, which is why I like the bean curd one better. :)

        For the bean curd preparation, blanch and rinse the pig feet. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add optional ginger or shiitake if you like. Stir in enough bean curd to taste... it's quite salty. Simmer until feet are tender.

        All of this can be done in a slowcooker too, aside from the blanching step.

        1. re: stilton

          *high five*

          thanks! these are both definitely right up my alley and i can't wait to try these preps.

    2. Stir-fry with ginger, scallions, star anise, soy sauce, and plenty of rice wine.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        interesting, thank you, ipsedixit. do you slice the pig's feet or do they go in whole? no sugar added?

        1. re: cimui

          You can halve or quarter the pig's feet (use front feet, they are better).

          No sugar.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            nice -- just had to ask because a lot of the ingredients sound similar to what you'd use for a "red-cooked" dish. (but in that case you wouldn't really be stirfrying, i guess.) thank you, as always!

      2. My mom likes to cook it in any way that befits stew meat with tendons. Sometimes she does a kind of cabbage soup with peppercorns and other types of good stewing veggies, and it creates a light broth with the hearty pig's feet. Other times she cooks it with soy sauce, black vinegar, star anise, peppercorns, and a few other seasonings. All cooking times range about an hour or more. Those are considered the "hot preparations."

        I also like to eat the cold preparations, where it's the soy sauce + etc stewing, except you only cook it for 30 minutes then let it sit in the liquid. Refrigerate the foot in plastic wrap, take it out when it's cooled down, let it sit to room temperature, then chomp on the yummy mixture of gelatin, tendons, and meat.

        7 Replies
        1. re: cerealpancakes

          I don't understand pigsfeet and would like more info. Is there enough meat on them to justify the preparation? I used to make pozole when I lived in the states and used pigsfeet to get the gelatin and richness I needed, because where I lived, they didn't sell pigs heads! They were a great addition, but the amount of meat I got off those things was practically nothing! They were all bone and cartilege. What is it I don't understand?

          1. re: MazDee

            It's the skin, tendons and ligaments - which have wonderfully gelatinous chewiness. Obviously there are people who don't like this textures; others love it.

            I don't think there is much cartilage in feet. For that you have to go to the other end, the ears. Properly cooked they are gelatinous skin over crunchy cartilage.

            1. re: MazDee

              MazDee, it ain't so much in the feet per say, but a bit higher up, what is many times caled pork hocks (kinda like their ankles). This is where the meat (and good tendon)is.

              cimui, I like doing a quebec terroir dish, a meatball stew with pigs feet. Lemme know and I'll post my version.

              1. re: porker

                porker, are you a cannibal?! ;)

                i would absolutely love to have your quebecois meatball stew recipe, if it's not too much trouble to post!

                1. re: cimui

                  What we called 'shreego'
                  4-6 pork hocks with or w/out feet, cut in half
                  3 lg onions sliced
                  seasonings (2tsp salt/2tsp pepper/3tsp cinnamon/1tsp ground clove/2pinch nutmeg)
                  butter
                  stock (pork or chicken or even water in a pinch)
                  1C flour

                  Season hocks with seasonings, wrap, and fridge overnight.
                  Next day, melt butter and caramalize onion, remove from pot.
                  Add more butter (this ain't the low cal version) and slowly brown hocks.
                  Add enough stock to cover hocks well.
                  Add caramalized onions, bring to boil, reduce and simmer ('bout 2 hours)

                  Meatballs
                  2lb ground pork
                  1 onion, chopped very fine
                  2 eggs beaten
                  1C bread crumbs
                  Seasoning (half tsp each salt/pepper/cinnamon/ground clove/nutmeg)

                  Mix all ingredients and form into balls. Place on oiled baking sheet, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, set aside.

                  After about 2 hours, the hocks should be intact, but falling off the bone tender. Take 'em outta the pot.
                  Brown 1 cup dry flour (a kind of dry roux) - either in a cast iron pan on medium, stirring until brown (mother's method), or on a baking sheet in the oven at 425, stirring every 5 minuites until brown (wife's method). You don't want to burn the flour (thus constant stirring) but just brown it. (this can be done ahead)
                  If it does burn, throw it out and start again, else the dish will taste burnt.
                  Note also that I've seen pre-browned flour, but never tried it.
                  Also, I've thickened with a true roux, butter and flour, cooked, stirring until dark brown (my method).
                  Whatever works for you.

                  Whisk flour (or roux) into pot of broth bit by bit, simmer, stirring until it begins to thicken. Add hocks and meatballs, stir gently and cook another 10-15 minutes.

                  Nothing too complicated,but definitely time consuming, mostly a winter dish. Used to *HATE* it as a kid, now I adore it.

                  If you refrigerate leftovers, you'll have a hock/meatball aspic - plenty of collagen out of the feet. Just rewarm with a bit of water.

                  Got me drooling, think I'll make this next week!

                  1. re: porker

                    that sounds *great*. i'm definitely not butter averse. thank you so much for posting!

            2. re: cerealpancakes

              cereal, in the same philosophy as your mom's first prep, i dumped some into a soup over the weekend. it added a bit of nice viscosity to the liquid. i cooked the heck out of the pig's feet, which left them a nice texture, but i think i prefer them more strongly flavored. look forward to trying your mom's second method (similar to stilton's prep) -- thanks!

            3. Hi cimui,

              I love pig's feet and if you want to try something other than French / Italian preparation, you can go to Hakata Tonton in West Village. The whole restaurant specializes in tonsoku (pig's feet) in Japnaese fusion style. I like it simply grilled and with sauce or in hot pot. There are also other specialties like tarako there as well.

              In terms of Italian, you can get a very unique "Milanese" preparation at Babbo. It is deep fried and resemble nothing like pig's feet in appearance. It will probably be a good way to get into pig's feet if you have doubts about its not-so-appealing look.

              My mom likes to make the classic Cantonese marinated pig's feet which are slowly simmered in her secret soy marinate until tender without losing all the texture. It tastes better than any version that I have tried in Chinatown here :D

              6 Replies
              1. re: kobetobiko

                oh wow, hakata tonton sounds fascinating. i absolutely must do some "research" there!

                i think, after reading through a bunch of recipes, that slow braising is going to be one of the methods i most want to try. i won't press you to give away secrets -- but do you know whether there is any sugar in your mom's prep?

                1. re: cimui

                  Hi cimui,

                  It's actually no secret. It's just that my mom is a really good cook and she doesn't follow any recipe. She just add this and that until the flavor is right for her. It's tricky because most of the time I know what goes into her dishes, but when I tried to re-create it, I can never make the flavor right like she did.

                  Anyway, I just asked my mom and here is how she prepares pig's feet:
                  - First blanch the pig's feet in water to remove the scum. Run them under cold water after blanching. This way the skin will retain its "chruchy" texture
                  - In a pot, sear a lot of garlic and dried shrimp (! I think that's the secret! I thought it was star anise before) until you can smell the garlic.
                  - Then put the pig's feet (patted dry first) into the pot and sear until the skin is slightly brown
                  - Add shao xing wine and leave for a minute
                  - Add a mixture of dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and water (should not be too salty as it will get concentrated) into the pot, enough to cover the pig's feet
                  - Let it boil on high heat for 1/2 hour
                  - During this time you can add rock sugar (not white sugar. Rock sugar is available in most Asian grocery stores). Taste to adjust how much you need
                  - After 1/2 hour turn the heat to low-medium and stew until the pig's feet is of the texture that you like

                  My mom said that some people like the pig's feet to have some texture while others like the skin to be super tender and falling off the bone. Depending on your preference the stewing time will vary. You just have to keep an eye on the stew every 30 mins at first and 15 mins after the first hour to make sure you can get the texture that you like.

                  Sorry I don't have any measurements as my mom doesn't have any either. My mom has been cooking for her family of 15 since she was 7, so she is really an amazing cook. I can say it loud and proud that her food is better than 99% of the restaurants in Manhattan Chinatown. That's why I am so picky about Chinese food here! :D

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    wonderful, kobe -- thank you very much! this is a very good description and quite precise enough for me. i very seldom measure when it comes to cooking (as opposed to baking), anyway.

                  2. re: cimui

                    Next time you're on your way to Lederhosen, pop into Hakata Tonton for an appetizer during happy hour! Then ask the bartenders at Lederhosen how they like their Schweinshaxn, the German answer to your porcine question.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      oh boy, i see a nyc pig's feet tour in the works...

                  3. re: kobetobiko

                    Kobetobiko, I've been meaning to report back to you and the other 'hounds who responded to this thread for ages re: Hakata Tonton and my own attempts to prepare pig's feet. I guess the verdict is that Hakata Tonton does it much better!

                    So far, I've tried grilled tonsoku and hotpot that included tonsoku, both of which I liked very well (though I thought the hotpot was a bit too salty).

                    My own preparations were a lot less sucessful, I think because I haven't been chopping my pig's feet into small / manageable enough pieces. I also can't seem to fully mask the distinctive pig's feety smell, no matter how many times I blanch the stuff in boiling water. Not sure if it's my feet in particular (ordered through Fresh Direct) or all feet... I notice that at Hakata Tonton, preparations don't have that odd smell.

                    Re: the deep fried Milanese PF at Babbo, I haven't tried it there, but I do plan to try the deep fried version next time I'm at Hakata Tonton. I don't have any qualms about the appearance, but somehow PF seems like it would take really well to deep frying. (all that skin converted to cracklin' -- mmm!)

                  4. The way those I mention in my profile were done was like this: the feet are wrapped in gauze with a splint included, so that they stay straight, and then they are simmered very gently in a sort of court-bouillon until they are quite tender - if you go to extremes, until the bones themselves are soft! Then the skin is split, the innards carefully removed, bones taken out and discarded (if not soft, that is). Then the soft bits are mixed with good sausage meat and stuffed back into the skin. The stuffed feet are coated with Dijon mustard, rolled in crumbs, drizzled with butter and then grilled. For more complete instructions, look up Pig's Feet St.-Menehould in the James Beard Cookbook - I think the "new" one.

                    I made them like this for Mrs. O sometime after we'd gotten back from France. She was disappointed - she'd liked them there OK, but prefers having bones to suck and gnaw, which is why she always got'em at the Daughters of Isis food-stand at the Tennessee State Fair.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      holy chowhound. that sounds amazing, will. amazing.

                      but why gauze?

                      and what should the texture of the skin be like when you finish simmering? even after a few hours in my soup, the skin was still fairly tough. i'm wondering if that is just the nature of the beast('s foot).

                      1. re: cimui

                        Beard actually suggests cheesecloth or muslin - I used gauze because I had some big sheets of it handy. It helps to keep the skin from splitting. He suggests 2 1/5 hours; Paula Wolfert says 3 (her recipe in "World of Food" for a Catalan roulade that looks yummy too). I seem to recall between 3 and 4 hours for mine. Much longer cooking at a lower temperature might also be rewarding.

                        I think I must have gotten the mustard suggestion from another Wolfert recipe, perhaps in her "Cooking of SW France", since Beard calls only for crumbs and butter. I'm positive the ones we ate in Chartres had been swabbed with mustard. They were SOOOOO good. The weather and scenery didn't hurt, either.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          this is going to make a good weekend project. appreciate these tips very much, will.

                          i can't wait to spring these on guests at my next dinner party. =)

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Crumbs and butter on the whole long simmered foot and then quick grilling or broiling is good.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          I just read this to my Mr. O and he moaned :)