Halloween is just too much fun to keep the shenanigans to just one day. (I did try to do a sugar skull for Dia de los Muertos, but guys, I didn’t realize how long those things take to dry out.) Also, I’m being self-indulgent in stretching it out since I had to go to school instead of dressing up and taking in some bad horror flicks.
Growing up, I was a prodigious reader. Trying to sate my appetite for books, mom used to get anthologies of stories for me. I suspect more than a few of these came from used college text book stores (I know at least one did) – it’s the only way I can think of that I would have ended up with the complete works of Brother’s Grimm at an age I probably should have stuck to the Disney versions. (Hi mom!)
These original versions are pretty horrific. Every time you turn around someone’s getting dropped down a well or cursed by a fairy or their head chopped off. The Grimm’s believed the way to teach kids to be kind, generous, humble, obedient children was to threatan constant head-loppings. Mom was pretty horrified when she realized what I’d been reading. (It was pre-internet, so no one was there to tell her that maybe she should rethink her purchase. Also, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Hans Christian Anderson’s works).
What does that detour have to with cooking?
In the original version of Cinderella, both of the evil stepsisters have their chance to go home with the prince. In order to fit their feet into the glass slipper they have to cut off parts of their feet. One sister cuts off a toe. (Fortunately there are doves to tell the prince to look at the now-bloody shoe – because he’s that unobservant – and he turns around and takes the stepsister back.)
You have to remove the toenail of the chicken, which means removing the tip of the toe. You also have to remove any significant blemishes. It’s . . . a little gruesome if you aren’t used to lightweight butchery.
So, I’ve alluded to chicken feet before and now I have a recipe for them. Those of you who haven’t completely noped out are probably wondering what they taste like.
The best chicken wings ever. That’s what.
Although that comes with a slight caveat. If your favorite part is the drumlet and you think boneless wings are a nifty idea . . . . maybe not for you. But if you’re like me and you seek out the flats and break them apart to get every last bit of proteiny, gelatain goodness – then you will love these.
One of the things I love about the recipe is how cattywumpus it seems when you first do it. The big steps are all out of order. You fry them, then you soak them, then you braise them. This classic dim sum technique might seem a little kooky to those of us raised with western cooking techniques, but you can’t argue with the results.
This is a lot of work, but fortunately it’s one of those dishes that gets better with an overnight sit in the fridge.
Enough talk! More cook!
Phoenix Claws (Braised Chicken Feet)
Procs: 3 – 6 dim sum sized portions
Time: About 5 hours (1 hour of active cooking)
Difficulty: This is “project cooking”
- Dutch Oven with a Lid
- Fry/ Candy thermometer
- Spider/ Slotted spoon
- Long tongs (NOT OPTIONAL)
- 1 – 2 Lbs of Chicken Feet, defrosted
- For the Fry
- Peanut Oil
- For the Soak
- 6 Whole Star Anise
- 6 Whole Cloves
- 4 Slices of Ginger (2 inches long, 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 6 Dry Bay Leaves
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Cup Boiling Water
- 1 Quart Cold Water
- 1/2 Cup Mirin
- For the Braise
- 2 Scallions
- 1 Quart Chicken Stock
- 1/2 cup Mirin
- Finishing the Sauce
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, grated or minced
- 1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- Drizzle of Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1.5 Tsp Fish Sauce
- 1 Tsp Corn Starch
- 2 Tbsp of Cold Water
- 2 Thinly Sliced Scallions (cut on bias) – garnish
Prepare the Feet
- Trim the nails off the feet. Authoritatively cutting down just below the base of the nail is enough.
- Trim any nasty blemishes off the feet. Be careful because the skin is a bit tough and there’s not much wiggle room.
- Put the feet in a big bowl with a big heaping spoonful of salt. Scrub the feet with the salt. Rinse with cold water two or three times.
Fry the Feet
Frying the feet first prepares the feet and the skin to absorb the flavors introduced in later steps.
- Make sure the feet are really dry. Squeeze them dry in a paper towel. Pat the surfaces dry. Put the feet not actively being fried on a cooling rack to air out a bit.
- Heat the oil to 350F. Line a mixing bowl with paper towels to absorb grease.
- Using tongs, place a few feet in to fry (I did 5 at a time in my 6 quart Dutch oven). Quickly put the lid partially on the pot – basically cover everything but the thermometer. It will sound like something has gone horribly wrong as the feet start sputtering and popping.
- After about 5 minutes the popping and sizzling will have stopped and the chicken feet will be ready for retrieval. Fish them out with the spider and put them in the waiting bowl.
- Repeat until all the feet are fried.
Soak the Feet
- In a 4 quart saucepan pour in the anise, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, ginger, and salt. Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir until the salt is dissolved.
- Add the quart of very cold water, mirin, and the feet.
- Cover and put in the fridge to soak for 2 hours.
- Clean out the dutch oven.
Braise the Feet
- Drain the soaked chicken feet in a colander. Discard the brine.
- In the Dutch Oven combine the chicken stock, mirin, ginger, anise, and scallions. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a slow simmer and add the chicken feet. (The cold feet will help drop it to a simmer)
- Cover partially with a lid. Simmer for 2 hours or until the feet are tender. There will be a lot of evaporation and that’s okay.
- Retrieve the feet with the spider and let them drain in a colander.
- Reserve 1 cup of the braising liquid.
- Wipe out the Dutch Oven.
Make the Sauce
- To the Dutch oven add a drizzle of olive oil and bring up to medium heat. When it’s hot add the pepper and garlic. Saute until it smells nice, about a minute.
- Add the reserved braising liquid, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar.
- Whisk together the corn starch and water into a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the sauce.
- Add the feet.
- Let the contents of the Dutch oven come to a simmer and reduce until the sauce is thickened and sticking to the feet. About 10 minutes.
- If keeping these for the next day, refrigerate the feet with their sauce. Reheat gently via steam or microwave (throw a damp paper towel over them).
- Garnish wish thinly sliced scallions. Sesame seeds would probably also be nice.
There is no genteel way to eat these.
ProTip: Do NOT pour used oil down your kitchen sink. This is not good for plumbing. You can save it for later use by straining it through cheesecloth and returning it to its home container (gently used fry oil actually works better than sparkly new fry oil). If you’re going to get rid of it, pour the cooled oil into a sealable container (like a milk jug). Firmly seal the mess and put it in your trash.
Will I have another Grimm recipe to share tomorrow to cling on to the Halloween spirit a bit longer? You bet I will. Snow White, eat your heart out.