03 June, 2010

Feets Don't Fail Me Now

I was in Save-A-Lot a few days ago and found a section of the frozen meat case completely devoted to large frozen packages of chicken feet.  Only they weren't labeled "chicken feet," they were labeled Chicken Paws.  Paws.  What a great name for the filthiest part of the bird - it almost makes them sound cute and huggable.

Not cute and huggable enough for me to buy them that day, however, even though I've bought them in the past.

This is a Barred Rock pullet.
They're good layers, don't mind
the winter, and are relatively
friendly as chickens go. 
I never saw a chicken foot in a supermarket until I was in my late 20's and even then, it was in an Asian market.  It was several more years before I found them in mainstream supermarkets.  These days, chicken feet seem to be in a lot of the places I shop.  When I buy them, I prefer to buy them fresh and I always take a close look at the package to make sure they're not too dirty.  That's a direct result of having kept a backyard flock of chickens for several years.  Chickens don't really care where they walk, and it doesn't matter how clean you keep the henhouse, they're always finding a way to tread on their own poop.  Remember this if you decide to buy a package of chicken paws: inspect them and buy the cleanest ones you can find, and then scrub the hell out of them anyway (under cool running water, with a vegetable brush.)

And what sort of things do you make with chicken feet?  For starters, they make really exceptional chicken broth.  Feet are nothing but skin and tendons and some fat (and a few toenails hahaha) and they're loaded with delicious chickeny flavor.  I like to stir them around in the bottom of a hot kettle until they start to brown a bit and then add chopped onion, celery, carrot, some parsely, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf or two, and water to cover, and then simmer them all day while I go do something else.  When I come back from the something else, the pot is filled with superb chicken broth ready to be strained and seasoned.

But the best way to enjoy chicken feet are as appetizers. 

Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce

1 pound chicken feet
3 cups water
Oil for deep frying
3 scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, slivered
2 or 3 star anise
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons black bean paste
1 tablespoon dry white wine (I like to use sake)
2 teaspoons sugar
Black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch, moistened with a bit of cold water

Rinse and scrub the feet well, then trim off the tips (cutting off the nails.)  While you're prepping the feet, bring the 3 cups of water to a boil in an uncovered pressure cooker.

Plunge the cleaned feet into the boiling water and blanch them for about a minute, then remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and drain them well.  (Keep the water in the pressure cooker.)  Deep fry the feet in the oil until they're golden brown and then drain them.  Reserve a tablespoon or two of the oil.

Put the scallions, ginger, and star anise into the pressure cooker with the water and the chicken feet.  Close the pressure cooker and cook them for 10 minutes with the top jiggling., then remove the  feet from the pot, reserving the broth. 

In the reserved bit of oil, saute the garlic and black bean paste, then add the feet and stir-fry them until cooked and browned.  Add the wine, sugar, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Pour in the stock, cover the feet and simmer another 5 minutes.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce, and serve the feet hot.

Yes, it's a time-consuming recipe, but worth every delicious minute.



Marc said...

My chicken stock making was completely taken to a new level once I started including feet. They are awfully creepy. I always trim off the toenails. You might want to check out Impoco's Poultry Market in Springfield. Fresh duck, rabbit, and chickens (as well as their feet)! -marc

Dave said...

Marc: I had no idea thre was a poultry market in Springfield. Sounds like a field trip is in order. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

I think if i brought these home my kids would NOT eat the broth.... hahaha.. Thanks for the comment on my brownies.. the whole neighborhood and my sister and nephew loved them!

krissy @ thefoodaddicts.com said...

lol.. yes chicken feet is actually a very popular chinese dish - particularly in Dim Sum. i am not a fan of it myself, but i know ppl who crave this stuff. i just don't get it. (LOL at Marc's comment about how he trims off the toenails... classic).