Zampone pig trotters
These arctic cold blasts lead me to comfort foods and meats such as shanks and osso buco cooked on the bone. At the end of every shank is a hoof, but not all hooves can be prepared in such a way – the pig in particular lends itself well to long cooking.
Eating feet tends to make most of us squirm, but it has long been a staple in many cuisines, with dishes such as braised duck feet or chicken feet. It’s not so much about the meat as it is about the texture, with the gelatinous result making the stock sticky and unctuous.
The biggest barrier to this dish is the boning out. This is a skill that took some time to get right; however, with enough time it is relatively simple. If need be you can cook the trotter whole for the two hours prior and then remove the skin while it is still warm. However, this doesn’t get the same result, as the gelatine in the bones isn’t incorporated as well.
Do make the effort to find cotechino sausage. Cotechino has similar traits to the trotter itself – it contains a lot of skin and secondary cuts, and is less fatty and more gelatinous. The use of the celery and the oregano is to help freshen the flavours so it doesn’t become too intense. A good cotechino sausage will generally contain a fair bit of pepper, so be wary when seasoning at the end.
Cooking and dealing with trotters can be confronting, but I find using these less-used cuts is rewarding. It may not become something we eat every day but when the weather is like this, it’s a great time to skill up and enjoy the result.
Serves 2 with a side of lentils and salad greens for dinner
Time: 30 minutes preparation + 4.5 hours cooking
- 2 pig trotters
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 bay leaves
- ½ bunch celery
- 1 large cotechino sausage (about 500g)
- 100ml olive oil
- 2 large bunches parsley, roughly cut
- 50ml butter
- 120g flour
- 400ml chicken stock
- 400ml milk
- ½ lemon zest
- cracked pepper
- extra olive oil and salt flakes to serve
- First, debone the trotter by running a knife between the skin and the bone and peeling the skin back the whole way. Cut through the toe joints and remove like a sock. (You could ask your butcher very nicely to do this for you).
- Place the bones and the skin into a pot with the garlic and bay leaves and enough water to cover well (about 2.5 litres). Simmer gently for two hours with the lid on, being careful not to disturb the skin too much as it is very delicate and develops holes easily.
- Dice the celery finely and pick the leaves off the herbs and chop.
- Remove the sausage meat from the skin and mix this with the other ingredients in a bowl.
- Pull the trotters out of the stock gently and lie on a piece of greaseproof paper that sits atop a 30-centimetre sheet of aluminium foil. Position each trotter so the cavity is open, then stuff with the cotechino mix, ensuring you get it right into the top. Replace the skin around the sausage to replicate the trotter’s original form, then roll the lot in the foil, sealing the ends with a twist to form a sausage shape.
- Remove the bones from the stock. Place the foil-wrapped trotters into the stock and cook gently for a further two hours with the lid on. Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Place the oil in a pot, then add the parsley and cook until it begins to break down. Add the butter and the flour. Stir this mixture for a couple of minutes on a low heat, then add the chicken stock followed by the milk. Whisk until it is smooth. Cook this out for five minutes and finish with the lemon zest, salt and cracked pepper.
- Remove the trotters from the foil and then slice them up to the knuckles. Spoon the sauce into the centre of the plate and serve the sliced trotter on top. Finish with olive oil and salt flakes.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 25, 2022 as "Dive in, feet first".
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