There has always been one thing in the meat department of the super market that has caught my eye. And at the same time that in intrigues me, it has scared the crap out of me. Yes by the title I am guessing you figured it out, chicken feet.
I know that for a lot of people feet are kind of a taboo ingredient. However as a chef I find that it is my duty to be open minded. So over the last couple of weeks one of my coworkers and I have been playing with new foods. And this week we tackled the one that neither one of us had tried. We had no idea where to even start with these things. But oh my gosh, did we hit the jackpot. So let me walk you through what we did.
So to start with we spent a good day talking and brainstorming what to do with them. We decided that we would sort of treat them as wings. And as I have recently just moved back from Portland, when I thought wings my mind instantly went to Pok Pok. One of the best wings that I have ever eaten.
So chicken feet are mostly just skin, tendons and cartilage. The decision was made we needed to give them a nice long cook to break them down. As many of you know, to me this screamed sous vide. I found the recipe for Pok Pok wings and sealed the feet in a bag with fish sauce, sugar and garlic.
After letting the feet sit in the marinade overnight. The next day I heated up the water bath to 170 F and dropped the wings in. I let them cook for around 12 hours and then checked them. They weren’t tender enough for my liking. The craziest thing is the amount of gelatin that was released from the feet after just a short time. Since I wasn’t happy with the tenderness I decided it was time to play the long game. So 72 total hours it was.
When I pulled the wings out of the water after the 72 hours you could see the difference. Nailed it! These were perfect and ready for the next step.
Pulling the wings out of the bag and getting all of the gelatin and sauce off of them was next. Placing them on a wire rack and resting them on a shelf over the stove to warm them seemed like the best option. Once we were happy with the amount sauce had come off of them we proceeded to coat them lightly in seasoned cornstarch. We heated up a pan of oil since we didn’t have a fryer to use.
While the oil was warming up we got the glaze ready. This was super simple. We browned off a little garlic and tossed in a little chili paste. Once the garlic was lightly browned and chili was blossomed I added in the leftover marinade. I brought that up to a boil and gave it a taste. So delicious.
Now that the oil was nice and hot I tossed in the feet in small batches. This was to insure that I could fry them up to just a nice golden brown without going to far. This is where it got a little bit gnarly. The smell that came off the feet when they hit the oil was a very potent fish sauce smell. But they browned up beautifully!
Once they were done they were placed them in a bowl and tossed them with the sauce. Because there was some sugar in the sauce and the fact that the gelatin level was so high it took on the look and feel of caramel. We tossed them in the bowl and them placed them on a plate and dug in. I will be the first to admit that I was a little nervous to eat the first one. But boy am I glad I did! This was a serious umami bomb in my mouth.
We did not take any of the bones out before we fried them. When eating them you had to eat around the bones , so it was very much like eating a chicken wing. The skin crisped up nicely and the caramely flavor was such a perfect combo. I can now say I have found a new favorite food, and that is chicken feet. I can’t wait until I am asked to bring a dish over to someones house. It will be these delicious feet.
So to give credit where it is due half of the reason these were as good as they were was because of the beautiful minds at Pok Pok. If you are ever close to one either in Portland or New York it is a must have. It will be one of the dinners that I will remember from my time in Portland for years to come. How I would have loved to have worked in that kitchen. Maybe someday I will. Until then I will continue to replicate those delicious wings. Thank you to Chef Andy Ricker and his crew for making this recipe available. I hope he sees this and enjoys that something a little different and crazy is being done with what he started!