Lisa is out of town this week, and one of our deals when we’re apart is that she gets to eat all the almonds, cashews, and pistachios she likes (I’m allergic) while I get to indulge in the sort of culinary experiments that she’d rather not be a part of (e.g., anything involving squid ink, the smell of which once woke her from a sound sleep convinced that I’d started an electrical fire).
Seeing as yesterday was the first night of Hanukkah, I decided to try my hand at a traditional dim sum item that I’ve always been curious about: chicken feet. I bought a pound and a half of them for a little over three bucks at Uwajimaya in the International District.
For a recipe I settled on “Spicy Steamed Chicken Feet” from Jennifer McLagan’s Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore, in part because it was the only one I found that didn’t require deep-frying, something I prefer not to do unless I’m sure the result is going to be worth the mess. Instead, after clipping the toenails, you give the feet a quick blanch in boiling water, which makes them curl up like little alien hands:
After that, they simmer for 40 minutes in a braising liquid of soy, Shao Xing wine, ginger, garlic, orange zest, scallion, star anise, brown sugar, and cinnamon. (The braising liquid smells awesome, and very Christmasy with the spices.) Once the feet are nice and tender, you transfer them to a platter, coat them in a mixture of hoisin and chili-garlic sauce, and steam for another 15 minutes. And serve:
My final verdict: Can’t beat the visuals, but the eating experience was a disappointment. The flavor was fine, the problem is there’s almost no substance behind it: it’s all skin and cartilage, without even the token bit of meat you get with chicken wings. (Not sure why I was expecting anything different, but after all those cooking steps I guess I thought the bones would turn into magic breadsticks or something.)
For tonight, I’ll be trying something much heftier: pork braised in milk.