Most parents I know talk about their kids (at least a little – maybe a little too much at times, amirite?) and, when their kids are not around, they talk about their favorite moments which may be embarrassing or offbeat. I love being a parent – it is my favorite role – and I take pleasure in seeing my girls have their own kind of fun, but it is particularly special when we find a common bit of fun.
We were out for dim sum with another family with far more experience than we had, so we left ordering to them. Our older daughter was more interested in learning to use chopsticks than she was into trying the food. She stuck to dumplings and rice. Our younger daughter, however, tried everything, and when chicken feet came around, I was ready to cut her a break. She was two, after all. She needed no allowances though as she spent much of the next few minutes gnawing on a gnarly talon of skin, connective tissue and bone. For some odd reason, her open-mindedness, or maybe it was inability to track her food to what it actually was, gave me one of those “proud parent” stories of half embarrassment/half pride.
Undoubtedly, these feet were fried. I typically do not fry foods – not for health reasons, but rather I am not a very good fryer and do not love wasting fat trying to get to be a great fryer. For me, it is something better left to the experts. However after going out for ramen last week, an idea hit me. One of my favorite parts about making ramen is gnawing on the deeply roasted chicken bones that go into making the tare. These bones are lacquered with soy, sake, and mirin and make a low volume/high flavor snack.
When I thought of low volume/high flavor, it occrued to me that chicken feet are just that. An hour later, I declawed the chicken feet I had sitting in my freezer since a week after the prideful dim sum experience. There was not much in the way of roasted chicken feet recipes online or anywhere else I had seen, so I followed the precepts to deep fried feet and blanched the feet in boiling water to remove impurities and blood and then dried them thoroughly to allow them to roast without steaming.
Next, I melted a good bit of chicken fat in a enameled Dutch oven and tossed the blanched chicken feet in with the melted schmaltz. The feet and the fat sat, uncovered, in the oven roasting until they had just browned, they still had more time to cook with the tare. I poured the fat into a small sauce pan to reserve it. The Dutch oven was still very, very hot, so I poured a bit of sake in to deglaze. With all of the browned bits scraped up and the feet dislodged from the pan bottom, I added soy, black pepper and mirin, stirred a few times, and put the pot, uncovered again, back in the oven.
Within fifteen minutes, the tare mixture had coated the feet in what I would certainly consider a glaze. With another few minutes in the oven, the remaining tare had thickened to a ketchup consistency, so the pot was pulled from the oven and the feet stirred gently to evenly coat them. The whole bag of feet were on a plate, boiled, roasted, and covered with a tare glaze and topped with scallions. This was in the middle of the 2nd quarter of the Green Bay Packer game.
The tare glaze was sweet and salty, making these bits of sinew, crunchy skin, and chewy bone a fantastic treat. The flavors are almost exactly the same as the bones remaining after making tare, but the texture is far better. Where the meat off of tare bones are dry and border on overly salty due to the amount of tare in the pot, these were crispy and sticky on the outside, gelatinous on the inside and the sweet flavors from the mirin were in far better balance with the salty soy.
By the end of halftime, I told L that buffalo chicken feet might be the future of football snacking, but the tare glazed feet would stick be the thinking man’s football snack of choice.
Tare Glazed Chicken Feet
- 10 chicken feet, trimmed of feathers and nails
- 2 tablespoons fat or oil, schmaltz preferably
- 3 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy
- 2 turns black pepper
Step one: Bring water to a rolling boil, add feet. After 5 minutes, remove feet and chill immediately. Dry thoroughly.
Step two: Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a dutch oven inside.
Step three: Add fat or oil (use schmaltz, I implore you) to dutch oven. Toss with boiled, cooled chicken feet. Toss, uncovered, in a preheated oven. Roast until browned, but not too deeply so.
Step four: Remove dutch oven and deglaze with sake, making sure to get all crispy bits and feet from bottom of the pan.
Step five: Add pepper, soy and mirin. Stir to coat and put back in the oven.
Step six: Check on the feet every 5 minutes or so. Remove when glazed to desired amount. Scoop onto plate and cover with scallions.
Step seven: Acquire many napkins. Consume.