Difficult to find in many North American grocery stores, procuring chicken feet may require you to venture into unaccustomed territory. The first time I saw chicken feet for sale, I was with my aunt and uncle in Chicago's version of China Town. It was there that I had my first taste of duck prepared in a manner that was wholly foreign to me, but delicious nonetheless. Farmers who butcher their own poultry may sell or even give away chicken feet, I found mine at a Vietnamese grocery store in the ghetto, not far from a grocery store boasting fresh offal. While many I speak with can't stomach the idea of eating chicken feet; stock made from them is nutrient rich, wholesome, and far more economical than a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Preparing your feet is simple if they come to you with the outer yellow membranes removed. There are methods for rubbing salt into the feet, heating them briefly, and removing that outer covering, but if you're fortunate enough to encounter feet that have been stripped of this, your work load lessens considerably. Most recipes I've seen call for adding the feet to a stock pot, boiling for five minutes, and then removing to trim the talons. The original water is discarded, and the pot filled with fresh water. From then on, your recipe is identical to a traditional chicken stock with the addition of carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Much like stock made from oxtail, chicken feet impart an unctuous, slippery feel, and incredible depth to the dishes made with finished product.
- 2 pounds chicken feet
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1/2 onion, this will be removed and discarded so leave the papery skin if you wish
- 1 or more garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 peppercorns
- 1 piece kombu - this is optional, but reduces the need for salt, and increases the nutrient content
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, vinegar, or cheap white wine
Rinse the feet, combine in a large stock pot with the vinegar, and water to cover. Wait for half an hour, and boil for about five minutes. If desired, trim talons with a sharp knife, or kitchen scissors by locating the first joint, and severing. You may also need to remove brown spots on the pads of the feet with a paring knife. After you have gathered your cooled, trimmed feet, put them into your clean pot with fresh water, and the remainer of the ingredients. How long you cook it is up to you. Regardless you will want to bring it to a boil, skim the scum, reduce the heat to simmer, and leave on your stove until you have reduced the contents, or you get tired of waiting.
At the end of its stove life, you may wish to throw in a large bunch of fresh parsley which adds ions to your stock. Strain and store in your refrigerator, or use immediately. Don't be surprised if people are revolted by the idea of chicken feet as food, but comment on the tastiness of your soups, and stews. Good food doesn't have to be expensive, it often isn't glamorous, but if you take the time to visit places that sell chicken feet, you will have a new apprection for what homemade chicken soup can be.