Saturday, January 1, 2011

Trotters on the mind's plate

A few days ago, I went to Hakata Ton Ton in west village, a place famous for making pig trotters in the tradition of Hokkaido, Japan. Everything was delicious: crispy skin and unctuous meat. My only issue were the bones. I'm sitting by myself at the bar, with everyone able to watch me put eat a trotter and spit bones out onto a plate: So I understood that if I were to pitch trotters to a client, I'd have to get rid of the bones, or hope that its an intimate meal where the guests aren't embarrassed by spitting out bones. I'm doing a dinner for a friend and next weekend, and I thought of doing something where I stew the trotters, pull the meat, wrap it in the skin roulade style and crisp it up in a pan last minute. Here's what I came up with:

Degorge the trotters. Put in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. This coagulates blood, and removes impurities.

Meanwhile, prepare aromatics to include in the simmering liquid. I reached for Celery, Onions, equal parts garlic and ginger, and star anise.

Foamy scum. You don't want that in your trotters, do you?

Dump the trotters in an ice bath to seize the meat. You're not cooking, but cleaning the trotters.

Sweat onions. I chopped them largely since they are going to be simmering for close to 2 hours and I didn't want them to turn to mush. Star anise adds a nice floral note to the broth.

Slice it all uniformly, continue to sweat all the aromats together until fragrant, drain the trotters from the ice bath, and add them to the pot, cover with chicken stock, and/or water.

Bring to a hard boil.

Turn it down to bubble lazily.

Remove when you can pierce the skin with a butter knife with no resistance.

This is the part where I had to deviate from my original plan. Pulling the meat off the bone was a bit too time consuming for New Years Eve dinner. My wife traveled for work the week before, and just got home last night, while the trotters were simmering, so I wanted to spend more time with her. So I did it exactly the way the did at Hakata Ton Ton, and just seared it off after its finished stewing, so now its technically a braise.

Uber rich trotters: succulent meat, crispy skin. It needed salinity, and acidity. So I turned to a granny smith julienne, and a quick soy-ginger sauce.