Bark and the Bite

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http://www.barkandthebite.com/
https://twitter.com/BarkandtheBite
Main Location: Breweries, Minneapolis (Maybe?)

So I guess I need to pay more attention to CityPages on a frequent basis, since it made for quite the little ‘blind spot’ for me in not doing so. That said, it DID lead to a rather fun surprise near the start of a good night out, so maybe not so bad of a situation afterall.

Let me run you down what happened. Finally, after weeks of distraction or not having any reason to do so, I got the urge to force myself down to Tattersall Distilling; well that wasn’t so difficult, it was the finding someone to meet me there to make it an ‘occasion’ that took a while. Of course before I went I checked out their little event page, the place rather well known for nightly correspondences with Brooks High Batter and other food trucks; but just my luck that it was THAT Saturday that had no truck listed for nosh possibilities. Guess Brooks went elsewhere. But oh well, wasn’t necessarily even in the mood for food, but it’s fun to see options right?

So I drive there, finally find that little pain-in-the-ass alley-that-doesn’t-look-like-you-can-drive-through to get to the cocktail room and park, and what do I see as I’m driving by? Not just a food truck, but one that I’ve NEVER seen before, so the back of my brain starts thinking about the money I’ll have to lay down that night… then it notices that it’s a BBQ truck and that number rises a little more. It explains why the food truck spot was blank on the website…

After an Umeboshi Sour, but before a late night Baby Spice (both of them damn good by the way, I need to go back to try out more of their creations), I head out to my first visit of Bark and the Bite. Of course it’s just my luck that they are indeed a new Twin Cities truck and not someone from out of town, guess that means I have to eat their food. Oh darn. They’ve been on the streets since the start of September; or to be more accurate, on the doorsteps of various breweries. So it didn’t take me that long to find them, relative to plenty of other periods-of-ignorance you know I’ve had, and it makes sense considering I don’t get the chance to brewery it as much as I want… like, almost never.

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As a typical BBQ truck should, the forward-highlight of its menu is of course a basket of Ribs, theirs Dry-Rubbed and Memphis style. As opposed to others I’ve found, though, the rest of the menu is rather simple. One gets their pick of 3 ‘pulled proteins,’ such as the typical Pork, Chicken, and a vegetarian inclusion of ‘BBQ Jackfruit’ (oh I’m talking about this guy later), which can be gotten on small or big sandwiches and as a classic ‘pile of meat.’ One then picks their sauce: Cherry Bourbon, Vodka Chile, or ‘Bark’ Sauce (a mix of whole grain mustard, brown sugar, and I think chilies and/or other bbq things). We then of course get a list of typical, sort of, sides; Cider Vinegar-dressed Slaw, Baked Beans, Arugula Potato Salad, and of course Hush Puppies, ‘Honey Spiced.’

There’s even a cookie! Browned Butter Chocolate Chip (with Pecans). So I grabbed one of those, and a few other things, and got to chowing down, thankfully with help of friends! Thought I’d have to bring home leftovers…
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Food: 8

Okay, had to get the Ribs since it’s their purported favorite/specialty/focus, and for sandwiches that Pulled Pork and the intriguingly unique BBQ Jackfruit… though it was so hard not getting the Chicken, it apparently was coming right out of the smoker! But money… was spending enough as it was, especially with cocktails that night!

Also I was able to get a taste of a Hush Puppy! Oh and these are good ones, and very happy to say of a distinctly different ‘style’ compared to those found at Funfare, which were small, crispy and easy to munch. Comparably, these are big globes of moist cornbready denseness, in the good sense, and with a light honey sweetness just barely glazing the outside; enough to get your fingertips a touch sticky but not enough to even say they’re close to being ‘sauced.’ It offers an actual element to the fried bread, and there’s that happy guilty pleasure we get when eating cornbread and something deep fried.

I should mention here, before getting into the meat, that I actually got one of each Sauce; I asked them to assign as to what they think works best for each, but they instead just put them in cups so I could swap and choose at will! Not sure if that’s what they usually do anyways for sauce sides, but hey it was great here! They all tasted pretty darn good btw, I think I like the Bark as my favorite, but I’m a big fan of stoneground mustard; or just anything with that notably different texture and stronger, ‘pungent’ flavors.

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5 Ribs come out on top of a bed of Coleslaw (sounds like I should have a punchline for this doesn’t it?), of which didn’t stand out too much; just a basic Red Cabbage-based salad, good and decent but nothing exciting or standing out. The ribs on their own now, I actually prefer when they’re NOT on their own; with sauce, they are wonderful, tender and flavorful, a nice porkyness with that mixture of deep spices and wet tanginess. But unadorned, they’re good still, aren’t chewy, tender and sticks to the bone like smoked ribs should, but there is this little oddity in texture, almost a… I don’t want to say chalky, but maybe a slight off-dryness either from being smoked just a little too long or, I’m thinking, not nearly enough; I feel like the timing is probably good but the temperature and smoke level might need to be higher. That’s me spit-balling though, I’m no expert in BBQ problem-solving. Suffice to say they’re not perfect but still good.

I’ll admit, I’m not as excited to see pretzel buns today as I USED to be, before practically everyone did it and ruined the specialty of using the ‘right’ bun for the trendiness, but they are damn good here. Or should I say they make them damn good; THIS is why I advocate toasted buns in most situations, for that moment when you bite into a sandwich, you get that mouth full of meat, sauce, flavor, bread… and then that thin layer of toasty CRUNCH to add that extra textural element, which is so needed with ‘tender-fillinged’ sandwiches like pulled pork.

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As for the fillings themselves, tender, not dry, toothsome and flavorful; the pig had that great distinctive ‘porkyness’ to it, though for a BBQ item I wish there was more smoke or spice flavor, I really couldn’t taste any. But that JackfruitSO cool. I mean look at the picture; can you immediately even tell which one certainly is the vegetarian pulled sandwich and which one isn’t? The only thing that helps is that the ‘bbq jackfruit’ is already mixed with some marinade flavoring, thus the added color to it. And god it was fun to eat; it wasn’t a complete ‘meat substitute,’ but it was actually rather close; had a full texture to it, soft but with a bite… if I had to compare the distinctive feel to it, though, I’d say the closest thing that comes to mind is the meaty quality of a good artichoke heart, but more shreddable. Then it had this little, sorta-pickled tang in the background of it, which also reminds me of some bamboo shoot dish alongside the texture… it is just so interesting. But at the end of the day, GOOD, vegetarian-required and curious will both enjoy this. Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure if any other BBQ truck or local business has offered a full, proper vegetarian substitute for a main entrée, and to such a degree.

Oh, and then there’s the cookie! It cost a dollar and… tasted like it. Not that it was completely horrible, you get the chocolate chips and the pecans, a bit of the brown butter… but after being baked and wrapped in that film for who knows how long, it certainly developed a not-so-great texture, rather crumbly without being crisp. May need to develop a better recipe, that comes out thicker and softer, or perhaps it was just an effect of staling.

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Holdability: 7

I got mine in ‘to-go’ containers, mainly as I figured I’d have quite a bit to take home, but they do use the classic baskets too, which aren’t AS cumbersome. As for the food, a little typical compared to other bbq places, nothing extraordinarily helpful via sandwiches, though the pork held together rather well. The dry style of ribs helped… though I did have the sauce on the side, not sure if normally choosing a sauce would have it on top; it’s either that, making it stickier, or it’s on the side, meaning something extra to handle. But not an overall mess. Forgot to grab a fork for that coleslaw though, but that’s likely my fault! And then the hushpuppies had that little tacky stickiness from the honey; not really messy, but has one licking fingers… a yummy trait indeed, but it should be noted as far as this category is concerned. I also imagine getting a ‘pile of meat’ gets one further involved with needing a fork; and since I doubt anyone wants to get that on its own, added sides will add more components to handle. Okay, list done.

Price: 7.5

$12.50 for the Ribs, of which you get about 5 plus a mound of that slaw, not to mention the chanced to get a ‘Loaded Platter’ of 2 sides along with a big sandwich or meat pile, a nice little deal for those who want the more complete BBQ meal. Without the platter deal, each of those entrée-like items goes for $9.50, and one can get those smaller pulled sandwiches at $5 a-piece to get a better chance at sampling the different fillings; and they’re not particularly small, still have a good little heft, so the price on its own is reasonable for what one gets, but can add up fast. Sides generally range between $2-$3, with the Hush Puppies at $5; one gets 3, but as you can see they’re a good size, and tasty… I say judge their value for price for yourself, it could go either way depending on personal opinion. Finally, the cookie, as mentioned, is $1.

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Speed: 8.5

Most prep comes simply in tossing things together with the various needed sauces/seasonings, piling it on the toasted bun or basket, and off we go; a little faster than average, but not near instantaneous.

The TOE: 9.5

I love the feel and personality of the outside, the name and design finally gives me that feeling of the ‘modern bbq food truck’ that I’m familiar with seeing from other cities, as opposed to the old-school, plain-designed truck/trailer with the long classic options menu; nothing wrong with those, but it’s the difference between seeing an old Mexican Taco cart and a bright, colorful modern fusion taco truck. They hit it nicely in my opinion. And I mentioned menu, which is something I really appreciate here; the normal thing  is one has to go up to a BBQ truck and you have to choose… Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork, Chicken, maybe Wings, they got Sausage, and is-that-even-part-of-the-animal? Not to mention side listings. And when BBQ businesses are noted for having distinct personalities in each of their separate products, usually being ‘really good’ in 1-3 and ‘just okay’ in the rest, it makes that first choice hard… gotta hope you’re picking the right one. But here? Ribs, Pulled Pork and Chicken (and the Veggie of course, but you’re either doing that from the get-go or not); and one could get the pork AND chicken easily in two sammiches. It’s a lot more approachable, and nice to see a place that narrows down their focus, in my opinion. And with the names of different items, Memphis-style Ribs, Jackfruit, and particular options for sandwich/platter, the truck and menu does feel rather distinctive in personality compared to other BBQ trucks. Though we have been lucky in garnering BBQ food trucks in the past year that all set themselves apart from each other, but one knows what I mean still.

Tally: 40.5/50

Final Thoughts

The Pulled Meat is definitely where it’s at; whether it’s to grab a single mini for a low-priced lunchtime filler/snack (or a good way to sample BatB’s flavor cheaply during a food truck rally), or a bigger Sandwich/Pile to really load up on some BBQ goodness on whatever sauce style is your favorite. If you REALLY want the experience, and a nice loaded lunch, I say go for the Loaded Platter, Sandwich option (I’d really say any of the three, though you’ve got to try that Jackfruit at least once just cuz… I mean who else is selling something like it at the moment?), with the Honey-Spiced Hush Puppy and Potato Salad options… perhaps the Baked Beans too, though I haven’t tried it to confirm and I feel bean dishes REALLY need that confirmation.

Sal’s Place on the Road

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https://www.facebook.com/salsplaceonlinemn
https://twitter.com/salsplaceonroad
Main Location: St Paul

For those like me with the consternation to try and visit every food truck in the main cities area, or at least hit as many as possible when given the chance, one usually ends up going through phases. Often we hit a mix of interesting and non, sometimes we’re lucky enough to get multiple amazing trucks in a row, others can just feel like dragging through some others on the side just to cross them off the list. But despite that grouping of bbq-themed guys earlier in the year, the year of 2015 has been turning up mostly fun and interesting trucks so far.

In particularly, I’ve been aware and receiving notifications for a certain truck for a while now, having only to wait on the right week to hit it. Of course delays happen, my budget not allowing me to drive down for truck lunches as often as I’d like, and having a few occasions where a truck not-so-often seen takes precedence over one which I knew I’d be able to get sooner or later.

Apparently I needed TWO visits, with quite the menu listing of different items. But, I’ve finally gotten a solid experience out of Sal’s Place on the Road, and can now do my long-awaited review on them! They taunted me with Facebook updates on their Italian menu items and desserts, and after seeing the complete menu on my first visit, the vehicle sky-rocketed to my absolutely most anticipated food truck of the year so far (we’ll see if they live up to it later). Wish I could have stopped to get a little interview and learn some more about the family behind the truck while I was there, like I’ve been trying to do lately, but things come up, you know how it goes (mainly the fact I was with the cousin, the street was busy that day, and their generator was loud as hell). From what I do know, and can tell, Sal’s does seem to be a family-run operation, and has been on the streets a few seasons already.

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The Menu itself definitely revolves around Traditional Italian-American Diner-style food, mostly geared towards street fare desirables. This includes a collection of Sliders (like Meatball, Pork, Chicken, and Caprese), a Sausage and Pepper Hoagie (cooked in tomato sauce of course), and Arancini, balls of risotto stuffed with cheese and other goodies before being deep-fried. Though no Italian menu is complete without Pasta, to which they change things up, making different ‘seasonal’ flavors and styles as the whim hits them, sometimes going Ziti while others doing Shells, perhaps even noodles of some sort. The one consistency is that it’s ALWAYS done with handmade egg-based pasta dough, likely rolled in Sal’s giant mitts every week.

They also have dessert! Which includes Zeppoli (small Italian doughnuts covered liberally in powdered sugar) and a Deep-Fried Ravioli, also made from their own pasta of course, stuffed with a hazelnut-chocolate filling. And yes, I got both, so you shall see my opinions below! And no I’m not wasting any more time on that.

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Food: 6

                My first visit actually had me starting with dessert! So, despite every parent’s worst meal-planning nightmare, I feel it only fair to discuss their sweets first, especially as they seem to be the main highlight overall (at least in my opinion). I myself was much surprised that the Chocolate Ravioli were deep-fried, it didn’t say, but it gave a nice crunchy outside. At first though, I wasn’t impressed… the filling didn’t stand out too much; but then, after my third, I realized my first couple pieces were actually rather thin. The REAL raviolis, with a good full tablespoon of hazelnut-chocolate inside… ahh, it’s like taking a bite of… well actually I can’t think of a comparison, but it feels a bit nostalgic. Like the best chocolate sauces and toppings, hot and runny, hitting every point of your chocolate cravings perfectly. It highlighted nicely with the firm crunch of the pasta, but as a whole I really did wish for one more element… after going past to start setting up this unique and interesting dessert, the dish needs SOMETHING else to make a complete and amazing plate, powdered sugar doesn’t do crap for it. Maybe just a drizzle of raspberry sauce or something (cuz it’d look like tomato sauce, right!?), or marshmallow (alfredo anyone?)…
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But I hold no complaints with the Zeppoli. They’re perfect. They may look a bit overdone on the outside, but it’s perfectly crisp, not greasy, with a tender interior that I can only describe as in the realms of the best, idealistic brioche and/or poundcake, probably leading more towards the latter. You bite in, enjoy the texture, the little eggy richness from the dough, the heaven of powdered sugar that takes one to the streets of Louisiana, and then realize there’s an extra little flavor there; a touch of citrus, lemon or orange. Simple and classic, something I normally would actually find boring, but for once thoroughly enjoyed the addition as it rounds out a well-crafted dough to make a uncomplicated doughnut sublime. Wouldn’t change a thing. Now onto savory stuff.

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Arancini comes in with an evenly crisp outer shell and soft, tender rice inside, the risotto mixed with cured meats and cheese, resulting in an end product that wasn’t particularly distinctive and outstanding in flavor, but still enjoyable. Especially when you got a bit of cheese goo that stretches when bit into! Rather num, particularly when dipped into the Tomato Sauce, a simple slightly heavier style but I found no apparent flaws (or at least things I disliked about it, to be more accurate to what we’re really all just writing about in review posts).

It also comes with a Breadstick on the side… which they ‘reheat’ by dropping into the deep fryer. Yeah. That happens. Then covered in clumps of… parmesan? Garlic Powder? A combination? I don’t know. What I DO know is that this breadstick is… unholy in the best of ways. It’s crispy on the outside, but fatty, a touch crunchy yet really soft inside, and gives a flavor that’s hard to describe outside of a feeling reminiscent of certain slightly-over-greasy doughnuts, but savory and actually crave-able. Which makes it even worse when I tried the Garlic Dunker basket (not my choice, my cousin got it because he doesn’t know how to really live food-wise) and none of them tasted as good. They were chewier and didn’t have that same outer layer of unhealthy excellence… and I know why. If you look at the picture, you can clearly see they’re using three SMALLER breadsticks for this, which causes a different effect after the frying (which I’m guessing doesn’t even last as long since they don’t ‘need’ the extra time like bigger ones do, another cause of the effect). I wish they’d just do two of the bigger ones instead (or, I mean, come on, just do all three, breadsticks are cheap as f*$# anyway), I might gladly order them myself.

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What I won’t gladly order again are any of the Sliders. Ultimately, we ended up getting three; the Abruzzo Pork, Chicken, and Meatballs. Now, whereas the fillings of each were all decent; juicy herb and wine-braised pulled pork (though I was rather sad that’s all it was, was hoping they’d either have a flavorful sauce or at least some extra toppings on it, otherwise it tasted like plain pulled pork, though really juicy), grilled chicken with a nice pesto and griddled red pepper (love cooked soft red peppers), and a meatball that was soft, well-seasoned, and with a tasty sauce; the simple decision in buns made the experience absolutely disappointing. First off, the ‘ciabatta’ style slider buns were way too thick for the fillings inside; ended up eating all of the meat before finishing the bread, leaving a big chunk of dry dough to force down the gullet. Secondly, there was NO TOASTING of them at ALL! And THIS was the kind of pre-cooked roll that needed a second run-through (like those take-home baguettes at the grocery store that you need to put in an oven to actually get crispy and soft), which is why they were all completely dry, doughy, and absorbed every drop of sauce. They dearly needed to be coated in oil or butter and put on the griddle for a bit at least, get some texture, form a layer, actually make it edible. And they had ample time to do this with the chicken too. They seriously need either get smaller buns or stuff them with more filling AND have them spend a bit of time on the griddle or in the oven before service.

Let me say if it wasn’t for the quality of the non-sandwiched food, and what I imagine how good the pasta probably is, this would be a much different score.

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Holdability: 8

                 One of the things I was most excited about when I first saw the menu was that my main worry of what was a very Italian-American style of business, typically filled with bowls of dishes filled of pasta and meat and sauce, very much expected to serve most of their usual fair in big to-go containers alongside plastic forks, actually took proper steps to twist and focus their food into a more portable means. As I’ve mentioned already, many main items are in sliders or a long sandwich, or are offered deep-fried as typical finger foods. Obviously the one pasta dish (and any sorta seasonal ones they say they do) still need forks, but everything else should be able to consume with hands easily, though the stuffing of the baskets with a buttload of chips feels like it curtails the portability feeling a bit (not to mention highly cheap and an unnecessary addition). Should I count all the powdered sugar on the Zeppoli and Fried Ravioli, not to mention its gooey chocolate insides, against them? Probably. Will I? Hell no; I mean that’s like complaining about mini-donut cinnamon sugar on your fingers (YOU MONSTER!!!).
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Price: 9.5

                  $4 for each dessert; $7 for any slider including a sampler of two (can get a sampler of 3 different ones for $9) and the Pasta; $6 for Arancini and Garlic Dunkers; and $8 for the sub. Really great range and deals overall, in addition to those massive additions of chips and that bigger fried breadstick on some, but the quality and actual size of those sliders (and unsatisfying bread) makes the lower price of THOSE understandable.
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Speed: 8

Overall, most of the ordered items didn’t take too long to get out; desserts and arancini just needed quick fry, meatball and pork sandwiches cut and scooped into some at-the-moment sliced ciabatta, and breadsticks deep fried. It was only that which needed cooking, like the chicken slider, that took a while… though it did seem quite a while. A bit disappointing considering how much time and opportunity they had to also put the buns on there (no, I am NOT going to stop bitching about those). Can imagine pastas, which are always cooked to order, will be a while. No idea on the sausage sandwich, though I expect it to be similar to the meatball situation. Overall it differs highly, so pick wisely.

The TOE: 7

                  When I first finally got to visit them, saw their menu, and tried the desserts, I was really excited. You know that feeling you have when you go to, or at least think of, one of those old, corner family-run Italian diners/restaurants? Walk in, look at the menu, and you can practically feel some old matriarch or patriarch in the back, just kneading masses of pasta dough by hand, stirring big pots of meat and sauce, following the same recipes and movements that generations of family members did before them. Reading the menu, getting served by the obviously wizened owner behind the window, I FELT that, even before eating the food.

And then I went back and had those sandwiches… and I lost that. Really I shouldn’t technically be having the food quality affect this score too much, but it just makes such a dent in the experience. Not to mention, I never thought I’d say this, but the generator was exceptionally loud on the second visit, seemed like a rather older model, which actually affected the experience a bit. That said, make sure to follow my Final Notes, pick the right menu items, and this hopefully shouldn’t affect you. Fingers crossed.

Oh, a last thought, something I’m really not able to say often anymore, but of the few items I DID really like I found what may indeed be the emergence of a Toe Ring. Those deep fried Chocolate Raviolis certainly hit that unique-yet-familiar note, sinfully delicious aspect, not how I expected but almost complete success. Big props for that.

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Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

Given my experience with the sliders, it’s plain to see that this is not a truck I would suggest for your everyday lunch needs, especially with other options available. However, parked in a food truck fair/rally setting, or on those days when those like me enjoy popping from truck to truck in gathering a ‘meal’ from separate little bites while keeping an easy hand on the wallet, Sal’s Place has a few items that excel.

The Arancini fit the same categorical need as Gogi’s Kimchi Rice Balls, only better, crispier and with that added element of gooey cheese. After getting that as a snack, finish off your day with the Fried Chocolate Ravioli or Zeppoli; it’s very hard for me to choose between the two, but if I really had to I’d probably pick the latter just for perfection’s sake. These guys definitely make a ‘food truck meal/day’ complete.

If still one wants to come by with the absolute intention for a sandwich or otherwise fuller meal from Sal’s, I cannot provide a 100% solid solution. That said, I do still hold some higher expectations for the Sausage and Pepper Sub; like the meatball it IS handmade, bigger, and there’s a chance the bun used might hold up better than those ciabatta sliders; plus, more portable. But if there’s any entrée they should do well with, it’s their Pasta, whatever seasonal thing they have on that day (Ziti, Mostaccioli, et). They make the egg pasta themselves, not to mention their tasty sauces, so it should offer a proper menu highlight. But those are the only two.

SFC: Pork Ends and Certain Techniques

              There are so many things I’ve come to love about the world of Street Foods, Truck-based or not. But easily one of my, if not THE, favorite point comes within the use, exploration, discovery, display, and whatever other words can describe the noted exhibition of those ingredients rarely seen in our everyday American culture. I am of course talking about such thing as Offal (organs, tongue, feet, etc), Insects, and other random products which, so thankfully, have found an increase trend in the National Restaurant scene. Though of course it’s true surgance came through the streets, both international and at home, especially in the all-familiar Beef Tongue Taco (which you can find at Chef Shack and other taco trucks).

                I love being able to play around with these whenever I can get my hands on them, and lucky for me I’ve found the local Cub and other chain stores have started stocking things like Beef Tongue, Liver, Marrow Bones, Tripe, and other random items in the frozen section. Just this week, I decided to stop by once again, and happened to pick up something I hadn’t had the chance to work with yet, despite a burning interest at seeing its use in a certain episode of Triple D.

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                Oh yeah, Pig’s Feet baby. It may be split as opposed to the nice whole pieces of them, but they still feety. Memories of those weird appendages hanging suspended in a pickling jar aside, I still remember the scene of these guys coming out, fall-apart tender from a hot broth, with a spiky white-haired host describing them as “80% Fat.” And boy, was he right about that, but I’ll get to that later…

                So, what to do with this mound of bone, fat and skin? My first time working with it, having no outside knowledge concerning other ways to manipulate the pork paws (besides “pickling”… ugh), best to stick with the general Go-To for all Offal meats: Braising.

                For those who need a quick refresher course on the concept, braising is simply the employment of Two different cooking styles, most commonly a Quick, Hot Sear to the product followed by a Long, Slow Poaching (flavorful liquid preferred); in China they actually employ a reversal of this, boiling some meats for a while before finishing in a wok!

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                If following along, make sure to get a nice, wide-bottomed pan up to high heat; I just use a Dutch oven so I can do both cookings (though you can sear in one pan and poach in another if preferred). The oil really should be SMOKING when poured in; dump in the meat, leave for about a minute or more to get that hard color (w/out burning) and turn to get all sides.

                Going from here all depends on what one wants to cook it in, and what one has; the only thing I suggest is not doing just water. Since I sadly didn’t have any stock or broth around, I looked to add flavor in other ways. Luckily I had some tomato paste leftover in the fridge, so I employed a classic technique learned through school. Tossed it into the hot oil, along with some whole garlic cloves, actually letting it sorta caramelize/sear/whatever for about a minute (stirring).

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                By now, the bottom of the pan has a little bit of crusty bits from the pork, tomato paste, and who knows what else stuck to it. This we call “Fond,” and it’s the delight of all broths, stews, etc; we WANT this (so long as it’s not all black and burnt), so before adding whatever base liquid, we need to deglaze that pan. As such, I added the rest of a bottle of red wine (can also just use water) to boil and dissolve the concentrated flavors, scraping the bottom with a non-metal utensil to get it all off.

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                Once done, I filled it to the top with water (wish I had stock… sigh) and added in some stalks of celery and carrots to help provide that aromatic background the broth would have had, along with herb stalks (had some cilantro handy) and a little something else.

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                Yeah, pre-packaged spice mix. Don’t normally use things like it, but the folks used this dressing in a tasty dish a while back, we had some left, and again I needed something to fill in for depth and complexity. Remember this, following a set recipe is all well and good, but we don’t always have the needed materials on hand; that doesn’t mean we have to drive all the way to the store to buy something JUST for a one-time use. Learning to use random things we have in place of what we don’t not only allows us flexibility in cooking, but a great way to use up leftovers!

                All that’s left to cook it fully is to cover and simmer for at least 2-3 hours. Once done you’ll have pieces of pork feet that’ll pull right from their bones with just a tug of the fork.

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                While this is cooking, there IS something that needs contemplation; a sauce. Even with its flavor absorption and moist texture, I’ve found many braised meat meals just aren’t complete without some sort of sauce to raise them up, preferably one made with the same cooking liquid. My personal favorite thing to do is simply turn it into a gravy, or just reduce the liquid down until saucy, though not all cooking broths will do this properly (depends on what’s in their).

                Goin’ with the gravy, then, we start, of course, with a Roux: a 50-50 (ish) mix of butter, melted in a pan, and flour, added to it. A very classic ingredient to many French sauces, this allows a sauce to actually thicken while also providing a little flavor if handled right, depending on how long it’s cooked after combining the two ingredients. It’s said that classic French “Roux Masters” can identify 15 (or more) different stages of roux as well as know each of their proper uses. The rest of us mortals, on the other hand, happen to stick with 3: Blanc (white), Blonde(… blonde), and Brun (Brown).

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                Cooked very briefly, the little paste (pictured) will actually lighten a bit in color, which is blanc; left to start darkening a bit, without actually browning, and it has reached the blonde stage. These are well known for their use in cream-based (blanc) and light-stock or other liquid based gravies. I, on the other hand, am going for a darker gravy, so I cooked it even further, to a nutty-smelling, coppery brown color. After which I added some of the liquid from the braise (after it had enough flavor from reducing and the meat) until it was thin, whisking constantly until it boiled to a good, sauce-like consistency. (on a personal note, I also decided to add a bit of brown sugar and bbq sauce to adjust my flavors)

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                I know I didn’t really say TOO much to explain the idea of roux and its use, but all you need to know is this; the more/darker you cook a roux, the more flavor it provides, but inversely the less it’ll actually thicken. And Traditionally, one tries to match the color of the roux with the color of the sauce used.

                My sauce ready and on the side, I can return to the pork, gingerly separating it from the rest of the hot liquid.

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                With all the little knuckles and joints and whatever, takes a bit of time to remove the hot flesh from the bones.

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                And now, one can make the choice to eat them in these big, rich chunks, or chop them up fine to use in your own little street food mementos. I of course chose the latter (though I did munch on some bigger pieces beforehand…).

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                Once prepared, its uses are various, whether it be serving over a warm polenta with roasted tomatoes and sauce…

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                Or mixing with the gravy itself, as such:

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                And placing in a little taco like so. Maybe a little pico de gallo and slaw, or in my case some leftover cooked kale, shaved baby fennel, and cilantro.

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                Oh, and how does it taste? If you’ve ever had chicken’s feet, it’ll provide you with an idea, only even more of that tender Fatty, Cartilage-y type substance, a little bit of meat here and there, mmmmm. It may not sound good to some people, but this is tasty stuff, especially paired with the right things (was great with that polenta). Lot of that good meaty “gelatin” inside; it’s actually sorta funny, the leftover in the fridge have actually turned back into a sort of jelly themselves.

                Well, a little long for a post about just braising pig’s feet, but any good talk of Offal needs to be. And whether it be at home, restaurant, or Truck, cooking Offal or just a tough piece of shoulder, everything here works. Hopefully you were able to find at least some enjoyment in this discussion of the off-used products, I know I did.

                Until my next long-winded dialog, Good Luck and Good Eating to all!