Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chicken Feet Stew

At all the large Asian Supermarkets here in Baltimore and probably anywhere else, you can be pretty sure they’ll have chicken feet. But go to a restaurant, and unless in a city with a true "Chinatown," you're not likely to find them on the menu. The only way they've been served to me in a Baltimore restaurant was at a Dim Sum Bunch.

As Dim Sum, chicken feet are likely to be simmered long enough with soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, onions, sugar, pepper and perhaps some star anise for the simmering ingredients to have a syrupy consistency. For such a preparation, I found it necessary to resort to the Internet. In none of the recipes in Gloria Bley Miller’s 900 page The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook does she so much as mention chicken feet.

Aside from the source of the above pictured recipe that we're sharing, White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler was the only book in our library to have a chicken feet recipe. It is entitled Dana Pullen’s Chicken Feet & Rice. Before proceeding, Ms. Pullen says to first drop the feet into a pot of hot boiling water for five minutes in order to remove the skin. "Make sure you get it all off," she adds, "because there’s no telling where the chicken’s been walkin’." The problem I had after boiling them for that long was that after removing the skin, only the bones remained.

The idea of eating chicken feet repulses a lot of people. Consider first the similarities in appearance between a chicken foot and a baby human hand. Contemplate the fat determinant and a cholesterol count that’s off the charts. Consider the twitchy twists and turns of your lips when eating chicken feet. And then try to imagine proper etiquette for dealing with the mouthful of bones you end up with. Mrs. Yi refuses to be in the same room with me.

If you really like chicken skin, you could be tempted. Or it’s possible that like me, you enjoy chicken feet. The recipe to follow is from The Black Family Reunion Cookbook for which the National Council of Negro Women is responsible. None of the numerous other African-American or soul food cookbooks that we perused---or for that matter, Asian cookbooks--- had a word to say about them. Could this have to do with an image problem? In any event, the recipe that follows appealed to me more than any others I came up with. Note that we parboiled our chicken feet for two ---not five!---minutes.


2 pounds chicken feet
5 potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
4 onions, quartered
3 carrots, sliced
1 cup green beans
3 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Cut nails, wash feet. (Parboil in a pot of boiling water for two minutes for extra cleaning---we are deviating from the original recipe by recommending this.) Remove chicken feet and place them in another pot---or put them aside and rinse out the pot in which you parbolid them. Place parboiled chicken feet in a stockpot and cover with water. Add potatoes, onions, carrots, green beans, bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper to season. Simmer until tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

From The Black Family Reunion Cookbook Simon and Schuster, New York, 1991