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Mar 30, 2010 06:41 AM

Calf's foot jelly and other foods you've read about but never had - some of which you'd like to

I remember reading in Victorian novels as a kid about calf's foot jelly being taken to invalids and wondering what the heck it was. Asked my mom, who told me it was like Jello made from meat (with the ensuing revelation that Jello was made from animal bones, etc.). It rather lost its allure after that.
Something else I've seen mention of repeatedly in mid-20th C and earlier culinary writing and really want to try is oysters on the half shell with hot chipolata sausages, which, if the sources are to be believed, was a common way of serving them. Not so in any of the many restaurants I've been in. I could of course whip it up for myself, but my wish is to see it on a menu and be able to indulge finally and luxuiriously in it.
Any other literary or other references to intriguing and unattainable dishes in your experience?

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  1. Pheasant Under Glass always intrigued me when I was a kid. It seemed the ultimate in elite dining. Your post prompted me to google this dish and I found this interesting link:

    Has anyone on CH ever actually had Pheasant Under Glass?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ttoommyy

      I haven't, and I know what you mean. It was a staple of humor and the comic strip as an emblem of conspicuous consumption. I don't recall seeing it on any actual menus.

    2. Pickled, jellied calves' feet were very attainable when I was a kid. It was part of my Great-Aunt Pearl's old world cooking repertoire. In Jewish cooking it's known as p'cha. My father was the only one who would eat it, and he loved it.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Bob W

        My aunt used to make p'tcha every holiday for one of her sons-in-law. No one else would touch it. But it sure had to be on that table.

        1. re: rockycat

          I'm a sucker for schav (borscht made from sour greens) and gefilte fish jelly, but I definitely drew the line at this stuff!

          Aunt Pearl made borscht out of green beans too. Good stuff!

          1. re: Bob W

            Good T-shirt slogan - "I'm a sucker for schav"? It's even fun to say.

            1. re: Bob W

              I love the gefilte fish jelly, and schmear it all over the bed of lettuce that I serve my gefilte fish (sadly, sometimes from a jar) on. schav is good but I've yet to find anything like what I had at a little restaurant in NYC's diamond district many years ago... the place's not there any more.

              1. re: shaogo

                At least according to my father, the yiddish word for gefilte fish jelly is "yoik" or something like that. Not surprisingly, most of the family modified that to "yuck."

          2. re: Bob W

            This appeared in my fridge once when I was a child. One of my father's relatives made it for him as a treat. Picture this - grey-ish jello with solid bits and sliced hard-boiled eggs floating in it, delivered to us in a 9 inch round aluminum cake pan. I had nightmares about it for years afterward.

          3. I was wondering about calf's foot jelly myself after watching "Julie and Julia" the other night.
            Julie was making aspic from a calf's foot... Probably it was just a way of making nourishing and easily digestible food for folks who were sick when refrigeration wasn't an option and jello hadn't been invented.

            5 Replies
            1. re: pasuga

              I think it was just the jelly that the broth made, not the foot itself. Solidified "beef tea" - beef broth made with minced beef added to strengthen it. People thought that the "strength" i.e. nutritive value of the meat was concentrated in the broth even up to my mom's time.

              1. re: buttertart

                Well, I, for one, still believe in the nutritive value of the broth, and even more so especially with recent experience. And it was my general practitioner who recommended that in the first place. It is not so much nutrition from the meat, but from the bones and ligaments etc. that have the restorative properties.

                As a matter of fact, I just finished the last of a huge pot of broth made with one calf's foot, and the reason why it was used was because that was the only thing at the butcher's that had the most amount of gelatin and bones. The way it congeals, even at room temperature, was unbelievable, and for how unsightly it was, I would really only take it for health reasons ;-)

                1. re: tarteaucitron

                  Don't let the broth cool too much in your cup, else it will start to glue you lips together. :)

                  My favorite way of eating foot broth (along with the softened tendons etc) is in an Ecuadorian style soup (mondongo). It starts with the typical onion and pepper soffrito (Spanish mirpoix), and is finished with a bit of milk and peanut butter.

                  1. re: paulj

                    "Don't let the broth cool too much in your cup, else it will start to glue you lips together."

                    Yes, that was what I found out eventually. It is surprising how much gelatin comes out of that one foot. So much that, despite the huge pot I was using, I felt obliged to reuse what was left of it to make another pot of soup, to make good use of it.

                    Will mentally file away this Ecuadorian recipe for when I run out of ideas for making veal feet into a soup.

                    1. re: tarteaucitron

                      I thouroughly enjoyed "cow foot soup" served up by street vendors in Belize' Cayo district. Its amost a national dish there.
                      Speaking of italian friend showed me how to make "gelatina". Kinda like head cheese, but made with boiled pigs feet and whatever meat you want (I like tongue), seasonings, and a splash of vinegar. Pick the feet, chop the meat, put in container, top with cooking liquid and into the fridge. Slice-able, meaty, jelly goodness.

            2. my grandpa used to eat it for lunch on Saturdays (Shabbes). It looked and sounds disgusting lol.

              1. Never having heard of calf's foot jelly, I would def try it. I'm a big fan of hog's head cheese so I would think that it would have to be similar at least.