Growing up on the small Pacific island of Guam many families raised their own chickens for meat and eggs. My grandparents had quite a flock that roamed their property. I can’t remember the number of times I tried to help my grandmother, emphasis on tried, catch one to prepare for dinner. (Good thing YouTube wasn’t around back then!)
My grandmother would cook the entire bird, including the chicken feet, and usually in a soup or stew. (With eight young children of their own to feed during WWII she and my grandfather learned not to waste a thing, and that philosophy stayed with them the rest of their lives.) So I grew up eating, and enjoying, chicken feet but when our family moved to the U.S. mainland in the late ’60’s I noticed that neither the feet nor the head came with the chickens we bought at the supermarket.
Lowly chicken feet get absolutely no respect here in the U.S. but that is changing, albeit slowly. It may be a texture thing but it is probably more because we Americans love our meat, and chicken feet contain none at all. They are mostly skin and tendon, and while they have been unpopular here in the U.S. for as long as I can remember, they are cooked and enjoyed in many cultures around the world; they are even considered a delicacy in China, which is my inspiration for this recipe (how about that for a segue)!
I first braise the chicken feet in water with scallions, ginger, garlic, salt, and Sichuan peppercorns for one and a half hours to flavor and tenderize them, then briefly sauté them in a little oil with red Cubanelle peppers, even more garlic, and a healthy dose of hoisin sauce.
Sichuan peppercorns, as the name suggests originated from the landlocked, south-central Chinese province of Sichuan; however, contrary to its name, are not related to (black) peppercorns. They are pungent, very floral and somewhat lemony but their most prominent characteristic is that they leave a tingling sensation on your tongue after eating them. Hoisin sauce is believed to have originated in southeastern China but the most popular version in China is from Peking (Beijing) in northeastern China. It’s thick, very dark, sweet, salty, very rich in umami and most often used with pork and chicken.
Much can be said about the philosophy of not wanting to waste anything, but there are also health benefits to eating chicken feet or stock/broth made using them. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this subject so here are a couple of links if you want to research it more:
2 dozen chicken feet (2 Grove Ladder Farm packs)
Braise:3 large scallions cut into four-inch segments
1 small ginger rhizome sliced
1 large clove of garlic smashed
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (you can also use black or multi-colored peppercorns as well)
Water (enough to almost cover the chicken feet)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup diced Cubanelle (or red bell) peppers (about 2 peppers)
2 large cloves of garlic sliced
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 scallion sliced (for garnish)
Wash the scallions, cut away and discard the root end, cut the scallions into four-inch sections, place in a medium to large soup or stock pot.
Wash the ginger, slice crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices, add to the pot with the scallions.
Smash the garlic clove, remove the peel, add to the pot with the scallions and ginger.
Add the salt and Sichuan peppercorns to the pot with the other braise ingredients; set the pot aside.
The Finishing Sauce:
Wash the Cubanelle or red bell pepper, remove and discard the stem if necessary, slice in half, cut away and discard the white inner membrane, remove the seeds, dice; set aside.
Peel and slice the garlic cloves; set aside.
Braising the chicken feet:
Wash the chicken feet under cold running water, add to the pot containing the scallions, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns, pour just enough water to almost cover the feet, heat on medium-high heat until it just starts to boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until tender.
FOOD SAFETY TIP!Make sure to wash everything used in preparing raw chicken such as kitchen tools, cutting boards, containers, surfaces, and especially your hands in hot soapy water afterward to prevent cross-contamination.
Also, I use the added precaution against cross-contamination of using a yellow cutting board just for poultry.
Finishing the dish:
When the chicken feet have finished braising and become tender do the following:Add the oil to a saute pan over medium heat, add the sliced garlic and diced peppers, cook until just softened, add the hoisin sauce, stir to mix well.
Carefully remove the chicken feet from their pot and place into the saute pan with the hoisin sauce, carefully mix well to coat the feet with the sauce.
Note: Do not discard the braising liquid, it is essentially a chicken feet stock that you may use in other Chinese dishes like soups or stews. Strain the liquid into a bain-marie or thin-walled pot and place it in an ice bath to cool, pour into plastic storage containers, cover, store in the fridge for up to seven days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Your braised chicken feet with hoisin sauce and peppers are done!
Move to a serving platter, garnish with sliced scallions.
Braised Chicken Feet with Hoisin Sauce and Peppers