Chicken Feet (Eeek!)

Chicken feet are a phenomenal source of gelatin, but they can be a little intimidating at first.  Fear not.  Once you work with chicken feet a few times, it's not too bad.  My method for preparing chicken feet (for use in Homemade Chicken Stock) is adapted from Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morrell.  I'm including a bunch of pictures at the end of the recipe, so you can get a quick overview.  Good to know: the toenails on chicken feet are like little knives, so please watch your fingers.  Also, they're messy to work with, so wear a big 'ole apron to protect your clothes and wash it (and any kitchen towels you use) with bleach afterwards.  I call this "butcher's shop lite!"


Chicken feet from your local farmer, defrosted in a big bowl of water in the fridge first (if they are sold frozen)


Fill a large stockpot about 2/3rds of the way full, and bring the water to a rolling boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, rub the chicken feet with salt.  (Please note: I like to wear gloves when handling raw meat products, to prevent the very small chance of acquiring a MRSA infection through the skin.  Obviously if your meat comes from a farm where you know exactly how that animal was raised, the risk of this (I would think) would be next to none.)  

Next, drop the chicken feet into the boiling water.  Allow to blanch for about 1 minute once the water has returned to a boil.  Remove with tongs, and place in a bowl of ice water.  Once they're cool enough to handle, use sharp kitchen scissors to cut off the pointy little toenails at the first joint, as shown in the picture gallery, below. Good to know: don't let the chicken feet cool off too long, or the skin is hard to get off.  If this part grosses you out, try channeling your inner Mad Scientist (it is a little gross).

Finally, gently peel the rough skin of the feet off, starting at the base of each toe and pulling the skin off over the end.  You can use your kitchen scissors and cut just under the skin to get started, but always cut away from yourself/your fingers (wet chicken feet can be slippery little buggers).  Also, watch your fingers as there may be bits of sharp exposed bone where you just cut the toenail off!  Think of this step like peeling the shell off a hard-boiled egg, and you've got the general idea.  Sometimes, you'll notice a dark-colored patch on what's the "pad" of the chicken foot...I don't know what that is (have to ask my local farmer), but I cut it off with kitchen scissors...comes right off easily.  If you can't get some of the skin off, it's okay, I always strain my chicken stock through a sieve anyway, so it'll come out at the end, along with any little bones.

The chicken feet are now all ready to go into your stockpot for delicious homemade chicken broth!  Let them simmer in the stock until ready to serve, when they can be discarded.  (Of course, if you have the Houseguests From Hell, this is an excellent way to encourage them to leave: just place 1-2 chicken feet in each bowl of chicken soup, and add some fresh parsley for garnish.)


photo gallery (Please Click to enlarge)