I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks ago while on a web-meander in search of pig trotter recipes. I tracked the history of this dish as far back as Thomas Keller, from his book Bouchon, but I also took inspiration from Brett Emerson’s version from his In Praise of Sardines website as well as the Slurp & Burp blog.
A long slow braise results in unctuous trotter meat. In this case, I was making a batch of Fergus Henderson’s trotter gear from his Beyond Nose to Tail cookbook, and instead of the recipe’s six trotters, I used eight, intending the meat from the two extra trotters for this lovely pied de cochon dish.
When the trotter meat is tender and falling from the bones (the many many bones), the carefully picked meat, tendon and half the skin is mixed with Dijon mustard, sauteed shallots, salt & pepper, and then spooned into two ramekins and chilled in the fridge until completely set. Removed carefully from the ramekins (a tight circumnavigation along the internal wall of the ramekin with a thin-bladed knife helps here) dusted with flour and slathered with more mustard, the disks of what is essentially brawn (headcheese) are then coated in panko and fried.
All the recipes I looked at recommended frying the disks until the crumbs were golden and then finishing them in a hot oven, but I only fried them. The disks soften as you fry them, and can be difficult to flip and keep whole –my first one fell apart a bit. The second one I was more careful with, and it stayed together pretty well, as you can see in the photo. It could be that frying them at a higher temperature, thus browning the crumbs quickly, and then finishing in the hot oven helps to keep them intact. I’ll try that next time. And there will definitely be a next time. All through the eating of these I was making little happy grunts and noisy sighs of pleasure. Utterly delicious.
Each disk is served with sauce gribiche and toasted home-made bread, and one is deliciously adequate per person. This version made two generous disks, one of which I had as part of dinner, and one which I relished for breakfast the next morning.
My understanding is that Mr. Keller’s dish uses hocks instead of just trotters, and therefore his version is undoubtedly more meaty, whereas my version was more tendon-y and perhaps a bit fattier as well. Should I come across a hock, I’ll try it with that, but I must confess that I loved the rich and wobbly texture of my version very much.
I would love to know if the provenance of this dish goes back further in time than Mr. Keller –is this an old traditional French dish? If you have any idea, please let me know.