Recently my father announced that he missed chicken feet. (What?!) His mother, my grandmother who was born in 1899 and lived to the age of 97, used chicken feet when she made her stock and my dad could always tell when a soup had been made with stock from chicken feet. It has its own unique and wonderful flavor, and the added gelatin from the feet give whatever dish is made with the stock a luxurious feeling when eating it.
The “Eww” factor of chicken feet I think comes from the fact that chicken feet look a lot like our hands. Silly eh? Especially when we consider that making stock from chicken feet has been a human activity for thousands of years. Most of our grandmothers or great grandmothers used feet in their stock as a matter of fact. They would laugh at us today to see us cringe. Stock made from chicken feet is fabulous, and incredibly good for you with all that gelatin.
After a lot of digging, I found a few old recipes. All recipes call for boiling the feet first, and then draining the boiling water. I think the point of this step is to get most of the extra protein and impurities to leave the feet and come to the surface. Another step that all the old recipes take is to cut off the claw tips. I’m not sure why, but I’m guessing that by cutting off the tips of the toes, it’s easier for the marrow and therefore the gelatin in the bones to come out.
Expect to get a lot of stock out of the chicken feet. A pound of feet will yield about a quart of stock, pretty much a bargain at $1 a pound for feet. Where to find chicken feet? Probably the best place to look is in Chinese or Asian markets. In Sacramento, the best place to get chicken feet is at the American Poultry Company at 5th and Broadway.
- 2 pounds of chicken feet
- 2 large carrots, cut in half
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 2 celery ribs, cut in half
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 peppercorns
1 Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Put the chicken feet into a large stock pot and cover with boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes. Use a large metal spoon to skim and discard the scum that rises to the surface.
2 Drain the chicken feet completely. Rinse with cold water so that the feet are cool enough to handle. Using a sharp knife, chop off the tips of the claws and discard. They should cut easily if you cut them through the joint. If any rough patches of claw pad remain, cut them away with a pairing knife.
3 Place chicken feet in a clean large stockpot. Fill with cold water to cover the feet by an inch. Add carrots, onions, celery, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, immediately reduce the temperature to low. Partially cover, leave about a half inch crack or so, and keep the stock cooking at a bare simmer, for 4 hours. Occasionally skim any foam that may come to the surface. Uncover, increase the heat slightly to maintain a low simmer with the pot now uncovered. Continue to cook for an hour or two. At this point you are reducing the stock so that it is easier to store. Strain the stock through several layers of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (ideally both) into a pot. Pour into quart-sized jars. Let cool for an hour or so before storing in the refrigerator.
When your stock has cooled, it should firm up nicely into a gel.