Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hot Trotter

Does this look like a pork trotter to you? Posted by Hello

My fondest memories of childhood are set in the kitchen. Perched on a stool, I had a vantage point from which to observe my granny painstakingly prepare everything from rempah (a pounded spice and herb paste with varying ingredients depending on the curry or stew it's meant to flavour) to coconut milk (which she extracted with freshly grated coconut rather than a can-opener) by hand. Like all formidable cooks, she was suspicious of short-cuts and believed in doing everything from scratch. Of her innumerable trademark dishes, my personal favourite was the traditional Chinese dish of pork trotters braised in black vinegar, a moreish number syrupy with brown sugar and fragrant with seasme oil and ginger.

It wasn't until I was living in London that I first ate pork trotters beyond the confines of home, and realised its culinary potential stretched far beyond my beloved homely braise. At the then-It restaurant, Maison Novelli, Jean-Christophe Novelli's house special was pork trotter, stuffed variously everyday according to the Frenchman's mood and fancy - the oxtail and liver mousse stuffings particularly stand out in my mind. I also really enjoyed my visits to St. John, Fergus Henderson's unpretentious but utterly brilliant restaurant. Here, commonly-deemed lowly cuts are treated with as much respect as filet mignon. At this temple of visceral delights, you can feast on tails, tongue, tripe and trotters (fried, boiled, au gratin and stuffed, respectively). What with spleen, brawn, brains and all other manner of offal and variety meats also on offer, the fifth quarter aficionado is truly spoilt for choice.

There is something gratifying about transforming a cheap ingredient into a dish that's not merely edible but very good, a goodness that belies its humble provenance. Afterall, it's easy to turn foie gras, say, or truffles, into a little tasty something.

Having nearly lost a finger trying to de-bone a raw pork trotter - nails, cloven hoof, and all - once (I've yet to meet a butcher who will deign to expand this effort for a cut so economical), I now stick with preparations that either require no boning, or if so, only require it after the trotter has been pre-cooked. Boneless preparations have the distinct advantage of being easier to eat and prettier to look at. In other words, more fun for the diner and more work for the cook.

Thomas Keller's Pork Trotters with Sauce Gribiche from the Bouchon cookbook is as elegant a preparation as they come. With nary a claw in sight, it's truly innocuous-looking - very useful if you're feeding the squeamish. I plan to use the leftover Sauce Gribiche (not much, seeing as I ate it while I made it, all in the name of tasting of course) to dress plain poached chicken. As for the remaining pork mixture, I'm dreaming of squashing thin slices into a crusty baguette thickly slathered with salted beurre d'Isigny.


Blogger Chubby Hubby said...

MMMMM.... that looks yummy. Was that W's welcome home meal?

1:12 pm, June 05, 2005  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am so totally blown away - wow! you are impressive. Do you by any chance operate a restaurant, cafeteria or even 'cook from own kitchen' type of enterprise, to allow sampling of expertise?

1:23 pm, June 05, 2005  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hey there chubbyhubby:
brando says bon voyage, to please have an extra harry's bellini for him, and to please post on every scrumptious morsel that passes your way!
he wagged approvingly when given pork mixture-so i guess it's good to go when w comes back tonight

hi eatzycath:
thank you very much for kind words. i am simply enslaved (happily and voluntarily)to my stove!by the way, those cloud-like wontons are positively poetic...

3:24 pm, June 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely images; and it is a fact that turning an economical ingredient into a very good dish is in itself a test of the culinary wisdom of the cook and appreciation of 2nd (or lower) cuts of meat.

There may be someone who could explain to you how to bone safely a trotter (yes, it is a serious job as there is very little meat between the knife and fingers!)

Apart from splitting it down the back and going round the bone the little joints at the toes are the most concern for most! Your blog shall be viewed by SGs only Master Butcher and I hope he shall "deign to expand on this effort"
- so next time i am sure you may have something prettier to look at and easier to eat.

Nice blog. Keep it up

5:25 pm, June 05, 2005  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi anon.

thank you very much for your wonderful feedback. when i am feeling somewhat more brave, i will get round to learning how to de-bone that darned trotter!

6:09 pm, June 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is an instructional video of the said boning of the trotter at a site called

12:18 am, June 24, 2006  

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