Cook on the good foot

Chicken feet….that’s something you don’t wake up every day thinking about. But I did today.

It’s October, the neighbor in the next block has put up a pulsing mass of orange Halloween lights and it’s getting chilly. So it was time to lay in a supply of homemade chicken stock in my freezer. It’s great on a cold night to know the base for soups, stews and other such warming things is waiting for me.

chicken feet begin simmering for stock

chicken feet begin simmering for stock

Usually I simmer stock from leftover bones from roasted chicken, after having consumed the chicken (it’s like free food). But I could find no chicken bones in the freezer, just bags of summer’s blueberries and The Hub’s Wolferman’s muffins. I remembered Hub telling me that his mother always said that chicken feet made the best stock, although he never saw her actually use them. There’s a lot of gelatin and collagen in the feet, which makes a rich stock.

But where to find them? I called Larry’s Super Market in Raleigh and they almost laughed – of course they had them, the man said. The center of Larry’s, which has been open for 44 years, is its meat counter. The produce and other stuff are mere garnishes. Larry’s sports varieties of meat that even I’ve never cooked, and I’m a native, carnivorous North Carolinian. Need pork necks or souse (aka head cheese)? Larry’s can satisfy your craving. The butcher told me that they always have chicken feet because many customers get upset if they don’t. At $1.39 a pound, I bought enough for two huge stockpots.

At home, I rinsed them and followed my usual stock-making technique. I added onion, carrot, celery, a couple of garlic cloves and a few peppercorns, then covered it all with water. When the water came to a boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 3 1/2 hours. I usually like to go for 4 hours and some change, but I had to leave the house, so I cut it short. After cooling and straining, I tasted the stock. The flavor was definitely richer than my bones-only stock, and it had more chicken aroma.

However, there was the matter of those stewed chicken feet reaching up from the bottom of my trash can. It seemed that the more they were cooked, the more they resembled long-fingernailed alien hands.

Wonder if the neighbors need some more decorations?


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