I can't decide if we've endured enough winter just yet to warrant a cry for green growing things and fuzzy peeping things, but the wish for the lush and the warm and the long days of summer is sitting at the edge of my mind, growing more stubborn by the day. I think maybe it's just an inevitable facet of intertwining one's life with land and beast that you find yourself with one foot in the current season, the other in the next. Gus's new winter mittens are hot off the needles and I just picked back up his sweater, which is finally approaching the two-thirds mark. And all the while we're thumbing through catalogues, circling our favorite breeds of chicks to raise and new veggies we want to grow this year. So here we are, for the most part happily, in a place of both Winter and Spring, trying to not wish either too much closer or farther away. Trying, and mostly succeeding, to accept the beauty of another blanket of snow, the forced rest of another sick day, and the pleasure of last year's roots roasted with two years past's home cured prosciutto. Truth be told, it is not too terribly hard.
Chicken Stock a la Foot
In the past few weeks, bookended by two great snows, we've really been used up nose to tail. Every inch of us tried. We've been physically and mentally strained with cracked ribs and scary infections, changes at work and disappointment with things we have no control over. And while I'm wont to applaud any act of using something up in its entirety, I must say I would like in the future to use a little less of ourselves, or perhaps spread the using out a bit more over time. We haven't found a stretch of days off that hasn't had one of us in bed for one reason or another and it feels like maybe something, somewhere is waiting for us to cry uncle. So, uncle! A thousand times over, she says from her sickbed. So in keeping with our current life's theme of Using It All Up, a brief how-to for stock made with chicken feet.
I'm not a believer in specifics when it comes to making stock. In our house what finds its way into the stock pot has more to do with what we've eaten the previous week rather than any sort of adherence to a recipe. For a good stock I've learned all you need are basics. Some veg scraps, salt, and then of course animals parts if you wish to make something other than a vegetable stock.
For years I've heard the praises of a chicken stock made with chicken feet and quite honestly, I couldn't imagine chicken feet making that much of a difference. But after a three rooster culling a few weeks ago we found ourselves with feet a plenty and I thought might as well! And here I type converted. A better stock has never left my kitchen. So, if you find yourself lucky enough to have access to chicken feet, use them. Trust me.
How to Prepare Chicken Feet for Stock
Put a small pot of water on to boil and prepare an ice water bath.
Clean chicken feet and rub them in salt.
Once your water is at a boil, drop salted chicken feet in the water. Allow them to boil 30 seconds to a minute, or until their color has gotten vibrant, much like you would when blanching a vegetable. Do not over boil or the skin will be really difficult to remove.
Remove your chicken feet from the water and immediately plunge them into the ice water bath. Allow them to cool for a minute or so. This will make the peeling easier.
Trim the first knuckle off all the toes and very carefully make a long cut from the top of the foot to the bottom. Begin peeling from this cut. There are two layers of skin that you want to removes from the feet. When all the skin is removed your feet should be a light fleshy color and look like bone, tendon, and fat.
Now you are ready to make stock. Combine your feet with veg, salt, water, and any other bones you might wish to use for your stock. Boil away and taste perfection.