The Breslin Pig Foot June 22, 2011Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork.
Following with my ‘series’ of dishes inspired by our travels overseas (this is probably the last post in the ‘series’!), I present to you, the Breslin Pig Foot. A warning: there are somewhat-graphic photos of pig’s trotters to follow; if you don’t want to see them, don’t scroll beyond the orchid!
When we visited the Breslin while in New York, we were there for lunch, which meant the pig’s foot wasn’t on the menu. However, this was probably a good thing, as we were spoiled for choice anyway and ended up having a great feast! But when I read the recipe for the Breslin Pig Foot on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, and having a spare pig’s trotter in the freezer, I decided to give the recipe a go, as tribute to the fantastic meal we had while at the restaurant.
In case you did a double take at the above sentence – yes, I did have a pig’s trotter in the freezer. I got carried away while at the market and had purchased a trotter previously. However, this trotter had one fundamental problem for this recipe: the butcher had cut it in half to ensure it would fit in my freezer…
It was definitely a good thing that the butcher had cut the trotter in half – if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t have fit in my freezer! For this recipe, I did have a slight problem as the entire trotter was required (in one piece), but I figured I’d solve that issue when I got to it.
To start with, I carefully cut around the skin to remove the meat, while leaving the meat intact. This was substantially easier on the already separated piece, compared to the piece with the bone still attached. Once the meat was out, I rolled back the skin to expose the bone. I also removed an extra piece of bone still present in the trotter, down to the ‘ankle’ as the recipe suggested.
At this point, I realised I needed to tackle the issue of having two pieces of trotter, when I needed one. I knew I needed the extra space so that all the stuffing would fit, and was worried I’d end up with too much meat for the amount of space I had to stuff. So I did the only sensible thing: I made a few holes in each piece, and used some butcher’s twine to tie them together.
(As an aside, I realise how absurd the above statement is. Not only am I stuffing a trotter, I’m creating my very own Franken-trotter! I must admit I found the entire process hilarious.)
Once I had the casing sorted out, I moved on to the stuffing. I used the meat I had previously removed from the trotter, plus fat, pig skin and various spices, and ground it all up.
I added ice water and mixed it together until it was sticky, then stuffed it back into the trotter. First I was pleased because I had enough mixture to fill the whole length of the trotter; I was also pleased to see that my Franken-trotter stitching was holding up and not buckling under the filling.
Now, here is really when I realised I had not planned this thing out properly. I’d managed to work through the whole severed trotter situation, but when I wrapped the trotter up in cheesecloth, I realised I did not have a pot large enough to boil the trotter in…
So I turned to the next best thing, and used my wok. I used a combination of chicken stock and water to boil the trotter in, as I did not have enough stock to fill the whole wok. I also had to *ahem* bend the trotter slightly to make it fit (made easier, I must admit, by not having most of the bones in the trotter any more).
I poached it for 4 hours, as the recipe suggested, and pulled it out after I’d tested it and felt the bones move at the end of the foot.
Apart from looking like something out of District 9, I thought I may have overcooked the trotter slightly. It was definitely soft – but was so soft the skin was tearing very easily. Not to be daunted, I pressed on, and once it was cool, added bread crumbs to the exterior. I pan fried it in some oil – and again felt I overcooked it slightly as it was very difficult to turn it without it further falling apart – and then baked it in the oven until the breadcrumbs were crispy and brown all over.
I served slices of the pig’s foot with mushrooms cooked in butter, garlic and parsley.
I loved everything about this dish. The stuffing was absolutely delicious – flavoursome and a great texture. But more interesting to me was the contrast with the gelatinous pig skin, the firm stuffing and the crispy bread crumb exterior. I’ll happily concede that mine was in no way as pretty as the Breslin’s – both during the preparation or in the final serving – but it was great fun to prepare and the end result was well worth it.