The Nasty Bits: Pig Parts Salad

You may think you don't want simmered pork parts in your salad, but think again. This preparation has become a favorite of mine, a clever way to deal with the random meat parts that may be sitting in your freezer. Or, maybe you have a dish that calls for a gelatinous stock you'd like to make with a trotter, but you don't know what to do with the trotter afterwards. Pig parts, served at room temperature, dressed in a basic vinaigrette of olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, is the way to go.

This salad tastes even better on the second and third days. The vinaigrette will have further penetrated the rich gelatinous porky parts. A sharp vinaigrette made with a strong vinegar like red wine works best, along vegetables and additions that are hardy enough to withstand the hit of pork. I used butter beans, celery, radicchio, artichokes, and olives, but you could also use other chicories like Belgian endive and escarole, or frisée, and marinated mushrooms or roasted red peppers. The dish is such a textural pleasure—you get the acidity of the vegetables and the brininess of the olives, the starchiness of the beans, and every once in a while, a very satisfying bite of pork further enriched by the olive oil in the dressing.

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As for what cuts of pork to use, a pig's foot is a very giving thing, indeed. You can eat everything off the bone—tendons, skin, and flesh. The bone itself, if you get your butcher to halve the trotter for you, contains a bit of marrow that will further enrich your stock.

And you can really milk those feet for all they're worth by deboning the skin and flesh after two or so hours of stewing, then tossing the bones and cartilage back into the pot and ramping up the heat. Boiling the heck out of those bones and whatever other fatty porky bits you'd rather not eat salad-style, will yield a rich, fat-emulsified stock that you can put to good use later on. (For how to boiled pork stock, see here.)

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In addition to trotters, toss into the pot other parts that you need to use up. This time around I just happened to have on hand a few end pieces of smoked ham and trimmings from a pork shoulder. Other parts that would be wonderful served salad style: ears, snouts, hocks, and tongue. The salad is best, in fact, when you have a variety of parts you can add to the pot, for then each bite of meat is a surprise and will be different from the next. Just what exactly are you eating? A trotter? An ear? A tongue! There's only one way to find out.