September Selection
 
Crubeen
(a tasty morsel from Tuam, County Galway)
Courtesy: Jack Devaney
Yield: 4 servings
 
Here are two recipes for basic crubeen. The Basic Recipe is for those who don't mind getting a little sticky while eating something delicious. The second,  is for those who choose to eat with a knife and fork and stay relatively tidy.

Basic Recipe

Ingredients:
8 fresh pigs' feet (not pickled), ideally the front ones
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 bay leaves
Bunch of parsley
12 peppercorns
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces dried breadcrumbs
Bacon fat or oil for roasting
Parsley to garnish

Directions:

Wash the pigs' feet well. Sometimes they have some bristles left on them.  These can either be scraped off, or leave them where they are -- cooking will soften them (or even dissolve them) and you can scrape them off afterwards.

If you simply boil the feet naked, they may fall apart. It makes for a much more attractive final result and a lot easier to handle, if you wrap them in cheesecloth first.  For each pig's trotter, cut a piece of cheesecloth that's roughly a couple of feet long and eighteen inches wide.  Place the trotter on the piece of cheesecloth and roll it up; then twist the ends until they're cordlike, bring them together at the middle of the trotter and tie them together.

When the trotters are wrapped, put them into a large pot with the onions, carrots, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.  Covered, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the trotters carefully from the cooking liquid and allow them to drain in a colander, still wrapped, until they're easy to handle.  Then unwrap them carefully.  They may try to fall apart if they're tender enough. This is a good sign, but can make things exciting, so be careful.  If necessary, pat the trotters dry with paper towels. 

Have the beaten egg and breadcrumbs ready in separate dishes.  Substitute the breadcrumbs with cornflake crumbs: they worked very well.  Dip each crubeen in the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat if desired an extra thick crust.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Heat the bacon fat or oil in a shallow roasting dish. Place the trotters in the dish and spoon the fat or oil over them.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until crisp and golden, basting again with the fat about halfway through the cooking time. When finished roasting, remove each crubeen or pair of crubeens to a separate plate.  Garnish with the spare parsley and serve immediately with soda bread and stout.

Knife-and-fork-friendly

After cooking the trotters, remove them from the cooking liquid as above, then drain and allow to cool until they can be handled.  After unwrapping, pull the meat off the bones with your fingers.  As you bone each trotter, try to keep as much of the skin in one piece as you can.

When all trotters are boned, divide the meat into as many parts as there were trotters, making sure that each part has at least some trotter skin.  Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and put a piece of the trotter skin face down in the bottom of it.  Then pack the bowl full of a portion's worth of trotter meat, pressing down firmly.  Fold the plastic wrap over the meat and seal well. Lift out the sealed-up patty and refrigerate for at least two hours.  The meat will set fairly firm in its own juices and gelatin.

After two hours, preheat the oven as above.  Unwrap each patty and have ready beaten egg and bread crumbs or cornflake crumbs as above.  Dip each patty in egg and then roll in crumbs.  Heat bacon fat or oil in an ovenproof dish as above; spoon the hot fat over each breaded patty and roast for half an hour at 450 degrees F, basting again at the fifteen-minute mark. Lift out carefully when the cooking is finished, and garnish as above: serve with a green salad and stout.