Sat 16 Sept 2006
Nothing winds me up quite so much as people who complain that eating fresh, healthy food is too expensive. I don't know where they shop, but if anyone genuinely thinks that frozen pizza and ready meals are cheaper than 'proper' food I think they need their head read.
Quite often when Andy and I are eating something we end up congratulating ourselves on how cheap the meal was - but I usually manage to omit (boring) fiscal details when I actually write about the food.
However, we have just hit upon a new source of very cheap meat. It's a cut neither of us have cooked before, so we're plunging into the great unknown. We splashed out a whole one pound and bought ourselves 6 (we should have only got 5 but the butcher was obviously feeling generous) pigs' trotters. Pity the pig running around on just two legs ...
At 17p a throw, we figured we could afford some experimentation, so we're only cooking one trotter at a time to experience as many pig-trotter recipes as possible. In this first entry I'll also treat you to lots of pictures!
Our first foray comes from the fabulously named Slurp and Burp
. MagicTofu recreated a very tasty looking trotter patty, which he came to via another blog and Thomas Keller.
Although time consuming (as you cook the trotter for over three hours) the path forward was simple ...
Trotter No 1 was removed from the freezer and defrosted in the fridge overnight. The foot was then put in the sink with some lightly salted water and given a bit of a soak and a bit of a wash (make sure to clean between the toes!).
I then boiled the the trotter in some water for a few minutes. This did the job of clearing a good lot of scum. I gave the trotter a quick rinse, cleaned the saucepan, and started again with cold, fresh water.
To the water I added a carrot, half an onion studded with cloves, some juniper berries, some black pepper corns, some fennel seeds and a couple of bay leaves. This was all brought to the boil and left to simmer for a good 3-3.5 (maybe 4 ...) hours. Obviously - reserve the stock!
After this, the foot was falling apart. It was very easy to skin and pick out the bones (which are mostly very large - I was quite surprised). It's a very sticky, messy process (and obviously not for those who like to pretend their food doesn't come from animals). I was also surprised by how much meat/fat/tendon/etc came from the one foot. The suggestion was to use the skin in the ratio 100:50 (meat:skin) - this pretty much meant using all the skin from the foot in our case. I just chopped it all up and minced it finely. I then mixed in a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard (smooth, not grainy) and some very finely minced onion (which I'd sweated down). I rolled this mixture into a log, wrapped it in tin foil and put it in the freezer.
To reward myself for this effort ... time for an aperitif which came from a bottle of 2001 Pelorus sparkling wine from New Zealand. At £17 a bottle it's a bit cheaper than many champagnes and just as good too ... mmm ...
We also assembled a very basic tomato coulis - onion, a little garlic and fresh tomatoes all cooked up and then blitzed. Andy put together some couscous (equal amounts of couscous and boiling water, mixed, left to sit, with finely chopped red onion and green chilli added, drizzled with olive oil and put in the oven).
Because the trotter meat is so fatty and gelatinous it didn't take long for the log to harden up. I dusted my knife in flour and cut patties from the log. A pan was on the stove, with oil heating up.
At this point, all culinary success ceased. What I didn't consider was that the other bloggers (and Mr Keller) had all used metal rings. Fat and gelatinous things tend to melt when put in contact with very hot things. Those rings were probably to maintain some shape ... whereas within minutes of my patties hitting the pan they collapsed!
Anyway, since this was dinner there was no option but to perservere. So, we decided just to fry it all up, spoon it onto the couscous and top with the tomato coulis. In a rather inspired moment somewhat earlier I'd also made a red onion, apple and lime juice salsa. That sat on the side. And we drank Turckheim 2005 Pinot Grigio.
So - while this ended up not being very pretty on the plate, it tasted absolutely fantastic. The salsa and couscous both went really well with the deconstructed patty, the patty itself was rich and very tasty. We probably could have taken a bit more care over the coulis.
The wine was a fantastic match. While it was had a very floral bouquet it was a lovely dry wine with just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fat of the trotter. Andy, who's normally a little lukewarm about white wine, was positively enthusiastic. And given that as a rule I steer clear of pinto grigio the fact that I enjoyed it too speaks volumes!