Pork Foot in Vinaigrette

Pied de Porc Vinaigrette

I was at the charcuterie yesterday to buy a few slices of jambon de Bayonne, an air-dried cured ham from the French Basque country.

Une charcuterie, for those who have yet to be introduced to this delightful concept, is a store that makes and sells all manner of goods derived from our friend the pork (ham, sausages, pâtés, rillettes…) and a wide variety of other prepared dishes (from salads and quiches to choucroute garnie and boeuf bourguignon, from salmon terrine and rabbit in mustard sauce to stuffed tomatoes and leeks vinaigrette), in addition to a smaller selection of cheese and desserts. Sort of a delicatessen if you will. These stores usually feel like Gargantua’s lair, filled with rich and creamy wonders and quirky aspic specialties, and they are a good representation of classic French cuisine — much like the one Julia Child depicted — with a unique blend of old-fashioned charm.

I drop by the charcuterie every week or so for ham (sliced to order of course: I ask for them to be assez fines — rather thin — so the lady will slice one and show it to me for approval before she slices the others), the occasional saucisson, a slice of game terrine, or the eggs in aspic for which Maxence and I have an insatiable fondness. I am not their best customer for the rest of what they have to offer as I find most of the prepared dishes too rich, but half the time the customer in front of me will be a tiny old lady or a middle-aged man who buys a single serving of pot-au-feu or blanquette de veau with a few steamed potatoes or fresh noodles and oh, why don’t you throw in a portion of céleri rémoulade, too.

When I was in the shop yesterday, I overheard the guy who was being served before me, asking whether they still had pied de porc vinaigrette (pork feet in vinaigrette). They did. Apparently he had come a few times before and they were all out, and the lady explained that very few charcuteries make them anymore, so people know to come here for their pied de porc vinaigrette fix, and so they sell really well.

Hm. Endangered charcuterie species? I had to get one of these! So I ordered my four slices of cured ham, assez fines, and a pied de porc vinaigrette (2.27€) in a rectangular cardboard tray with cute little cutout waves.

What you get is in fact half of the foot, split lengthwise, skin-off but bone-in, and what you’re left with is pretty much just bones, cartilage and a yummy gelatinous substance, all covered in parsley and chopped onion vinaigrette. I’m not sure if there is a proper eating etiquette for this, or if you should just save it for when you’re dining alone or with someone who really really loves you, because there is no way you can get to said yummy gelatinous substance without cracking and sucking and gnawing at the bones, spitting out the occasional stray bit of cartilage, fingers greasy, parsley in your teeth and vinaigrette running down your wrists.

I’m pretty sure the Cro-Magnon-style table manners are at least half of the pleasure.

Charcuterie J. Thillerot
31 rue Lepic – 75018 Paris
01 46 06 05 16
[2006 Update: this charcuterie is now closed and replaced by a chain flower store. Sigh.]

  • joan

    Now THIS is food for my husband! However, since I could so easily be a vegetarian, methinks I’d find it a tad challenging to eat :-)

    On my first visit to France, many moons ago, I was awestruck by the charcuteries..I’d stand in front of the windows for ages…looking at the never-before-seen-scenes ~ those little whatever they weres..perhaps quail…heads still there..all on the side..all in a row…

  • http://www.feldhofer.com/felix felix

    in piemonte they take the whole lower part of a pork leg, including the foot, then they take out the meat, make a paté out of it, and stuff it back into the skin. then it is cooked, and after its cooled down again, served in slices (the best slice is the one with the foot). it is really very good. unfortunately i don’t know, how it is called.

  • Salli

    In my part of France (Herault), in every charcutier, there they sit, those trotters, displayed like porcine ballet slippers. I have never had the nerve to try them, but my husband orders them at a favorite restaurant, and comes home with lovely spots on his shirt.

  • http://tascadaelvira.blogspot.com/ Elvira

    I like very much french charcuteries. The problem is the day after, when my face is full of spots…

  • http://www.franco-toronto.ca Emily

    Hello Clotilde,

    I just love reading your Blog. This is the only way I can relive my trips to Paris. Until recently, I thought it was impossible to enjoy this kind of adventure in the city where I live(Toronto, Canada). I’ve recently found a great guide and I don’t know if you’ve seen it or heard about it. I think the team behind it love French food as much as you do. In any case, you may want to check out their web site. Actually, the interesting thing about the guide is that it’s bilingual…which is great and really rare to find in Toronto.

    The name of the guide is:
    The French Side of Toronto and the web site is http://www.franco-toronto.ca .

    Please do continue to birng us the many flavours of France.

    Emily

  • http://www.gastronomie-sf.com Fatemeh

    Clotilde, is there actually a DIFFERENCE between pied de porc and pied de cochon, or is it just a semantic thing?

    Merci!

  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    i love pork feet!!! we braised them(the whole leg, actually) here in a sweet-salty sauce until all the gelatinuous substance is ready to fall off. it’s a chinese-filipino dish that is well-loved in my country. present is most feasts. got different versions, but the base sauce ingredients are soy sauce and sugar or sprite, plus spices. let me know if you want to try it. i’ll email you a recipe.

    chinese “charcuteries” also serves pork feet as a coldcut, boneless and sliced thin as appetizer.

  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    pardon the typo, should read, “present in most feasts.” and also, the pork “feet” is usually offered to the guest of honor or the most senior diner first(similar to fish heads-as it’s considered to be the best and most nutritious part).

    btw, may i ask what font you used for the “zucchini” script on top of the page? i find it very pretty. i have been looking out for a good font to use for my planned business label.

    thanks!

  • http://guavabanana.blogspot.com Ty

    Hi,

    great pics!

    just wondering if you ever came across shop/restaurant owners who weren’t happy with u taking pics or do you usually ask first?

  • john

    That Piedmontese dish mentioned by Felix is called Zampone.

    I had Queue de porc at a Paris restaurant (La Closerie des Lilas) many years ago. Delicious. The pig really is a noble creature.

  • kate

    i recently discovered your blog and i must say that i love love love it! i simply adore paris, and spent the most amazing week with a friend in her flat in the 16th arrondisement. i have never eaten so well in my life and i fell in love with all things relating to french food that week. from the simiple to the fancy, i think my favorite meal was some cheeses and bagettes we shared over wine at the neigborhood cafe while watching the city pass us by.

    your blog brings back so many memories and i’m relishing all your delicious posts that make me want to pack up right now and head back to paris for a very long stay :)

  • Shelli

    What Felix decribed is what I expected when I ordered pied du porc at a brasserie last spring. When I got the whole gelatinous foot, bone and all, I was somewhat taken aback. Luckily I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I had been. It must be a taste I haven’t yet acquired.

  • verity74

    yuck – sorry I know this is terribly English, and you should not mock what you have not tried but – YUCK

  • Stephanie

    Just about to post from England when I saw verity74’s comment!
    I was going to say my grandmother would have loved this. Seeing pigs feet in Paris makes them seem soooo romantic :)
    Maybe this is one of those north/south divide things in England — my southern colleagues freak out at black puddings (pigs blood sausages for the uninitiated) – a northern speciality!

  • Christy

    I really love your blog, but one has to exercise caution while reading it and in the still-sick stages of early pregnancy. When I lived in France (Thônes, near Annecy), I was game to try most things. But now, mashed potatoes and cold cereal are my manna. Perhaps once I’m feeling better I’ll be better able to appreciate these pieds de porc, until then I keep drooling over the jam recipes and wondering where to buy cocoa nibs.

  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    stephanie,

    you’ll probably appreciate this. i’m from the southeast asian country of the Philippines. we have a specialty here called “dinuguan” also known as “pork blood stew” – a medley of pork meat and organs simmered in pig’s blood and a couple of finger chilies.

    usually served over steamed white rice or soft sweet rice flour cakes. suffice it to say, it’s black. we market it as “chocolate pork” to unsuspecting foreigners. c”,) hehehe

  • Vicky Go

    This is for kayenne – fr a “kababayan” – a fellow Filipina:

    The Chinese dish w pig’s feet/knuckles (complete w skin) is generally called “hong ma” – hong is red & ma is meat.

    A Chinese friend, gave me a very easy rcp for this: for a four pc-pig’s feet/knuckles – ~ 3-4 lbs, cleaned & washed & placed in a dutch oven or casserole pan, add a 6 oz can of Chinese black bean sauce (about 3/4 cup) – use less if you’re using bottled yellow bean or brown bean or ground bean sauce. Then add a 6 oz can of Chinese pickled cucumbers – don’t drain. Add water to cover all, cover pan and set to simmer over med-low heat until meat & bones and cartilege are falling apart. Check from time to time and replenish water as needed. Before serving, add a 10-12 oz can of quail eggs (drain & rinse eggs first) and about 10-12 cooked shelled chestnuts. Heat through & serve hot.

    The Filipino version is called “paksiw na pata” – uses vinegar & soysauce & tiger lily buds & anise & black pepper – some add a little bit of brown sugar & if you prefer it hot – add a dash of Tabasco. The sauce doesn’t get as thick as the Chinese “hong ma” and they don’t cook it for as long as the Chinese dish.

    Vicky from nj

  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    vicky,

    yep yep! hehehe we got our own version using sprite and 5-spice or star anise. hehe YUMMY! i love it with dried black mushrooms served over wilted lettuce leaves.

  • Diego

    “I was at the charcuterie yesterday to buy a few slices of jambon de Bayonne, an air-dried cured ham from the Basque country.”

    I apologize for my english, first of all. I’m spanish, living in Toulouse (france), and the “jambon de Bayonne” is the french version of the “spanish ham”, it’s not the ham from the Basque Country (Bayonne is in the south of france, beside the spanish border). I know it’s quite very difficult to find the spanish ham (google: jamón ibérico), but if you try it (specially the “jamón de jabugo”, the best (and expensive)) you’ll see the difference.

    Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see the “jambon de bayonne” is not so air-dried cured as it would do, and has no same taste.

  • Vicky Go

    Re “jamon iberico”

    Dear Diego,

    It is very difficult (and costly) to import food into the USA – especially fresh fruits and meats – cured, canned/packed or otherwise. But a Spanish provender based in Md/Va “La Tienda” has been distributing “jamon serrano” for a couple of years now – as whole hams, chunks or sliced. I love it! I think it tastes better than prosciutto. They’ve been taking orders for “jamon de jabugo” – but it’s a little too expensive for me yet. Because they will only accept orders for whole hams. Maybe if/when they make slices available, I will be first in line to try it!

    Vicky

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Fatemeh – From what I understand, the general rule is that “cochon” is used when the animal is alive, and “porc” when it has been butchered and tranformed into something edible. To me, “pied de porc” and “pied de cochon” are the same, except I think “pied de cochon” sound a little more old-fashioned (more charming, too).

    Diego – Thanks for your comment: what I meant was that Bayonne is in the *French* Basque country, “le pays Basque”. I am lucky enough to have access to Jamon de Jabugo (too pricy for everyday eating, but I indulge once in a while). Jambon de Bayonne is quite different I agree, but it is air-dried, cured and delicious nonetheless!

  • Sirene

    Cher Clothilde,

    I have a fond memory of eating my first pig foot at a mountain village festival near Lugano, Switzerland where I was a high school senior. An assignment to investigate local art history led me to chose this village and because it’s only art was in the only church (frescos and a few paintings) the vicar was educator on village history. He invited me back to the annual village fete and a few weeks later I sat at a long table with the villagers being served up a pig’s trotter. Not the food I would have expected but quite pleasing to taste and a novelty for a young American gal. I was proud that I consumed my share and have enjoyed a more adventurous culinary life ever after.

    Sirene

  • http://www.gastronomie-sf.com Fatemeh

    Clotilde, I have to agree — ‘pied de cochon’ sounds rather more gentle and dignified. Thanks for the explanation!

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