Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pied de cochon farci (as they say in the Dordogne)

My fridge is still stuffed full of all sorts of smoked meats, salted meats, bloods and animal bits leftover from a trip to Chinatown. I had to get eating that pigs trotter (with hock attached) so tonight I thought I'd flex the old culinary muscle and try to make crispy stuffed pigs feet. I had a lot of trouble finding a suitable recipe. The only one I did find was in a tatty old Gordon Ramsay book I had in the bookcase. And he makes it sounds so simple.

In fact, I decided to make it tonight, last night. It does take some time, patience and lots of fucking around with different stages. The first three laborious tasks, you must complete the day before. First I soaked the pied for 12 hours, or overnight. This gets rid of the blood. Secondly, I had to skin and debone the damn thing. This was a bit daunting. I vaguely remember watching a butchery show back in the UK where some grimy farmer had the skin off and bone out in mere minutes. OK, he's a dab hand at it, but I reckon the bastard must have cheated, or there was some great editing going on. It took me about 1 hour. I turned the foot 'palm up' on a board and cut all the way down to the second 'knuckle'.

Then, by stretching and pulling the skin away, scoring with a knife as you go, you can take the skin off to the toes. I located the joints, sliced through the cute little pig 'palms' and cut as far down into the 'wrist' as I could. (You may think I'm using terms we would associate with the human hand but in reality, pig feet and human hands, they're not much different. When I thought about my own anatomy while wielding my boning knife, it became a whole lot easier.) Now came the tricky part. I had to wiggle the knife in between what felt like two rounded pebbles in Porky's wrist and slice away as much tendon as possible. By pushing the hand as far back as it would go, I was able to expose the really chunky joints in the wrist, and there is a pesky little tendon that connect the whole hand to the wrist. Once I twisted and twisted it over and again, I just knicked at it and the foot sprang free from the bone. I now had an empty glove puppet type thing, and a huge hunk of bone and meat, both ready for the braising pot.

Ramsay recommends braising the skin and toes for 3 hours, and the hock and bone for about 2. I gathered up a large Dutch oven, my mirepoix, herbs, oilve oil, stock and got to work. Just a simple braise, you know the stages...Don't you? I removed the meat and let it cool in some of the stock. I returned the skin to the oven for another hour. I shredded the cooling meat, and chilled the ham stock to form a jelly. The skin was plucked from the heat and after some cooling, laid flat on a chopping board. Ramsay reckons you need about four sheets of pig foot skin altogether to form a proper sausage. I had only one. So it was going to be a small sausage indeed. Well fuck it, I just need one for me, right? I had all sorts of trouble getting the shredded meat to stay in the thick skinned casing. With the aid of a sushi rolling kit and some clingfilm, I was able to get something accomplished. Not quite the result I was expecting, but I didn't expect miracles first time around.

I did have a lot of meat leftover, which I was able to mix with some Dinosaur BBQ sauce. I toasted some wholemeal buns, drenched them in jellied ham stock and made one of the greatest impromptu pulled pork sarnies the World has ever seen. I loved it all - Greasy, tasty, spicy and wholly satisfying considering all the pissing about.

The resulting tiny sausage will have to wait until tomorrow before the frying as it needs to chill in the fridge in clingfilm, so it adopts a true sausage shape. It won't take much eating. It's a slighty anticlimactic moment considering all the effort I put in. I did manage two pork sarnies out of it though, some totally fabulous pork stock and the bits of skin I had leftover will make scratchings or chicharrones. All I was left with was a pile of bone and some gristly bits. Tomorrow I will know about true success or failure.

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