Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This little piggie...

Since moving here, we've been making a conscious effort to live cheap. That means not exploring all the restaurants in our neighborhood quite as fast as we might want. We don't spend as much as we used to on alcohol. For now, it seems kind of adventurous, even fun, a little bit of a game.

I have to admit shopping for groceries in Chinatown usually makes me giddy, partly because that's where things tend to be cheapest around here. But mostly, it always brings to mind some of those juicy foodie books I've read, (Kitchen Confidential and Heat) and shows like "Iron Chef" and "No Reservations." The grosser and more exotic the food, the better. Sunday afternoons, chances are Kendra and I will find ourselves wandering through Chinatown looking for animal parts we've never seen before, exploring all the nooks and crannies of the haphazardly laid out fish markets and trying desperately to interpret the dirty handwritten signs propped up in front of piles of, say, chicken feet or crazy-looking spiny fruit. I'm shamelessly okay with stopping and staring, or pointing and asking "what is this?" or "how much?" My challenge is usually trying to find cheap sources of protein. Fortunately for me, Kendra is pretty much okay with letting me get anything (at least once). A few weeks ago it was some nummy chicken gizzards. One of these days I'm going to get a huge beef tongue and pickle it. But this past Sunday I settled on pig's feet. I found a nice market way in the back that had them in frozen form, and they kindly offered to cut them down the middle for me with their giant meat saw. The best part: two hefty piggy trotters set us back less than 4 bucks.

I was so excited about cooking them I decided to discuss it here. I'll probably even post pictures. I know it sounds completely lame and kinda geeky, but this is something I've been wanting to cook for a long time.

Mind you, I don't have any idea of the results right now. In fact, those happy feet have only been in the oven a short while. There's certainly no guarantee this will turn out the way I imagine....succulent, crispy, mouth-watering pig flesh falling off those pig knuckles. Not all my culinary adventures end well. Yeah, just ask Jeremy about a certain "fried calamari" escapade.

Well here goes. I've settled for a simple, slow braise (should take about three hours). I've tossed the feet in a pot with onions, celery, about 20 cloves of garlic, a little water, some salt, a few glugs of white wine, and put the pot in a modestly hot oven. Let the magic begin.

(Hour and a half later...)

The smells are simply amazing. All that onion and garlic are so aromatic, almost overpowering. I can't even tell how much the pork is contributing to this aroma, but I'm not complaining. The feet themselves are becoming brown, moist, shrunken, softer versions of themselves, but in a good way. There appears to be a good deal of fat just underlying the skin, and I think it's slowly beginning to render out. I predict all this fatty goodness, plus a high bone-to-meat ratio will lend these feet a whole bunch of flavor.

(Hour later...)

By now the sweet-savory pork smells are positively intoxicating. I turned the oven up to 350. A nice dark brown color is starting to develop on the pork skin, and the braising liquid has reduced to almost nothing, so I added a bit more water. Shouldn't be long now....

1 comment:

  1. Hey Josh! I found your blog. As someone who is very very fond of tongue, I recommend boiling it. Watch out though, it will make your house smell. If you can get past the smell, you have excellent meat. It is especially good on sandwiches.

    It was great to hear how you guys are doing!

    -Tracy Fung