Each week this Spring, it seems, a new flashy cookbook is released from one of the world’s cooks. We are talking about some of my favorites: Cosentino, Bloomfield, Pelaccio, Aduriz, but with limited time and resources, how can I choose? Damn that I have to choose, but I do. For me, instead of choosing between these new cookbooks, I have decided to wait to be gifted these books (given a May birthday and Father’s Day, there is still time) and to back fill my collection with some more classic cookbooks for cents on the dollar.
Before founding Saveur, Colman Andrews published a tome, one of the first American forays into the region, on Catalan cuisine called, you guessed it, Catalan Cuisine. This book was far ahead of its time and holds up very well nearly 25 years after it was published. After getting a clean hardcover copy, I read it without putting it down. There are a ton of fantastic ideas in the book. So many that, while I would not even consider any to be hidden, the one that stuck in my mind even after trying to pick up other books was a simple savory flan, or as I understand in Catalan, flam.
This flan features one of my most beloved cuts from the pig, not bacon (although it does include it), but rather the trotter. It makes so much sense. The sticky qualities of the trotter, which is practically made from gelatin, sets this flan in such a way that imitates richness without being heavy. Imagine the smooth qualities of the a chicken liver mousse with nearly meringue-like lightness.
While the texture of the trotters is well-known, the real surprise occurred in the cook’s sampling of a scrap of trotters fresh from the braise – the flavor. It is not simply the flavor of pork, but something more specific to the section of the hog. The trotter has a specific texture to be sure, but it also has its own flavor. Oddly, while America is obsessed with the tenderloin, which has neither unique flavor nor texture, the lowly trotter sits in the freezer, if anywhere at all. Granted, the bones (and nails) are troublesome and you have to use your imagination to find anything recognizable as flesh hidden between sinew, bone, and skin, but for those looking something new to use “everything is better with …” you could do much, much worse that the trotter.
After an overnight braise with aromatics, the trotters are added to crispy bacon, flour (I used almond), egg, cream, ricotta, and salt and pepper in a food processor. The whipped mixture in scooped into clingwrap-lined ramekins and baked. I decided to add a little flair to one of the ramekins and lined it with cryo-blanched ramp greens.
To be honest, I preferred the basic version to the ramped up version. The texture suits itself to being unlined. The smooth qualities of the flan make any sort of bite almost uninvited. The combination of bacon and trotter is so concentrated that if ever there was a blind taste test, even the worst flavor identifier in the world would not mistake this for anything, but pork. It was completely unique and unlike anything that I have ever eaten.
It counts as something that hit me out from left field — I made this to try something new, but it ended up being one of the best things that I have eaten all year. It was a simple process and a a seemingly simple dish – a flan served with sauteed mushrooms, but the results was incredibly savory, complex flavor with ethereal texture. It was a cool combination of humble ingredients and an elevated result. This recipe would be as comfortable in the Joe Beef cookbook (which is epic) as it was in a book published nearly 25 years ago. It was a great reminder that everything new isn’t new.
As an aside. Sliced the day after prep and served with an egg is about as good as breakfast gets. Think pork and eggs, but with a side of smooth stickiness.
Flam de Peuada
- 3 pigs feet
- 2 leeks (whites and greens)
- 2 carrots
- 1 head garlic
- 1 onion
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 ounces bacon
- 5 ounces ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp almond flour
Step one: Cook pigs feet with aromatics covered in water in a low oven overnight.
Step two: Reserve and use best pork stock ever. Discard veg.
Step three: Separate lean from fat from skin from bone. Discard bones, reserve half of skin and skin like materials.
Step four: Crisp bacon
Step five: Combine non-reserved trotter, bacon, and other all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.
Step six: Scoop into 1 cup ramekins lined with ramp tops and/or clingwrap.
Step seven: Cover with small bit of butter
Step eight: Bake at 350 over in bain marie for 30-40 minutes. Until flan is puffed up and slightly browned.