Well, yes, they are pig's feet, and the old saw about the sow's ear came to mind while I was taking their homely picture. They are just not going to be pretty, and the very idea of them puts even a lot of meat eaters right off. I can tell you, though, that I first ate them, and liked them unreservedly, as a sixth grader.
My mother didn't make the pig's feet, some neighbors did. These were very cool neighbors, H and M, friends of my parents and parents of my friends. They were first generation foodies who were responsible for introducing all of us to a lot of wonderful, special food. They were artists, and super cooks, and they knew how to have a really good time. And, like my parents, they were big on including their kids in as many of the interesting places they went and things they did as possible. They conveyed a conviction that the future would be adventures-not necessarily all sunshine and puppies- but well worth the trouble.
So anyway, H and M made these great traditional mustardy, breadcrumb coated pig's feet, which we ate with very sticky fingers, and there were lots of napkins and they were delicious, and a good time was had by all-especially me. I loved them, and haven't had them since, so when I saw this recipe in Jennifer McLagan's Bones, a cookbook I have out from the library-well, I wanted some. Incidentally, the professional photograph of the feet in the book , while better than mine, is not much prettier.
They do usually have pigs feet at the supermarket-I'd bought them in the past to put in a daube, so I knew I'd find them there. I figured I'd better try this myself before foisting it on anyone else, so I got two split feet, instead of the four the recipe called for. As adapted below, it is for,uh, two feet. I'm pretty sure this is the same preparation I had back then. There is a bonus I'm left with as well- about 2 cups of the court-bouillon they were poached in-thickly jelled courtesy of the trotters. I'll let you know what I figure out for it. In any event, if you are brave, and can wait 3 days, you will be rewarded. This is how you do it:
an onion, chopped
a carrot, chopped
a leek, chopped
a few juniper berries
a couple of cloves
1/4 cup white wine viegar
4 cups water
Bring to a boil, and skim. Cook 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 300F. Tie up the split feet with twine or wrapped in cheesecloth, putting them back together in original form. This helps keep them from falling apart, as you are going to cook them until they are very soft. Put them in a little covered casserole, pour the bouillion over them to cover. Over the top, some crumpled, dampened parchment, then the casserole lid. Into the oven-it will take about 3 hours to get them very soft and loose. Take more time if they seem too rubbery.
When they are done, pull out the feet, and set them on a flat plate, sliding out any bones that come out easily. Untie them, take them apart, and weigh them down on the plate with a cutting board, topped with a couple of cans. Refrigerate overnight. Save the liquid in a covered jar in the fridge-you can peel off the fat in the morning.
The next day, preheat the oven to 450F. Mix:
2 tsps dijon mustard and one egg white. Using a pastry brush, paint the trotters all over and roll them in a generous amount of dried breadcrumbs. Set on an oiled baking sheet, and cook them until they are browned all over- about 30 minutes. Consume.
My guess is that if you are thinking at all you might like to try this, and are not grossed out by the concept-you will love them. They are very good with bitter greens of the salad-y, or cooked broccoli-rabe variety, and some vinagrette. And, of course, napkins.
I'll keep you posted on the jelled bouillion.