Ragoût de Pattes de Cochon
My mother Françoise has graciously offered to share a Christmas recipe with us, one which has been passed down to her from our Memère Laporte. When I say passed down I am not referring to the physical sense, a handwritten instruction on a scrap of paper nor from the food splotched pages of some ancient cookbook. My mother was taught old family favourites by watching the "professionals," rolling up her convent school sleeves and attempting the task at hand, all the while storing the valuable information for future use. Besides, my mother cannot write down an English recipe without a great deal of concentration. French is her first official language, the language in which she learned to write.
Although she hasn't made Ragoût de Pattes de Cochon in years, she still recalls the ingredients, instruction and her mother's incessant words of caution, "do not burn the flour." Frightened to make a mistake in the kitchen of a traditional cook, my mother perfected her ragout recipe out of sheer terror. Even today, as I watch her cook in her own kitchen, she is in full concentration, pursed lips, no smile, a different person for only a moment in time. Her only mission on this snowy day is for her boules to turn out as her mother would have made them, small, uniformed saucy deliciousness.
I am grateful for her military-like tutorial in the kitchen as it has produced one of the best ragoûts Quebec has to offer, just my biased opinion.
However, trying to acquire exact measurements and cooking times from her proved a task in itself. My mother insists true French Quebec cooking is based on instinct, eyeballing ingredients and tasting for accuracy.
I try my hardest to bring you my family's version of Ragoût de Pattes de Cochon as dictated by my mother.
The first part of Ragoût de Pattes de Cochon or Pig Feet's stew (yes, you have read this correctly) are the meatballs.
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
Incorporate all ingredients together and form into meatballs. Cook at 400 degrees C until cooked through.
Once this has been completed we move on to step number 2.
5-6 pork hocks or pattes de cochon
3-4 cups of chicken broth (continue below)
Boil pork hocks in chicken broth in a large pot until cooked through. Drain, reserving broth and let pork hocks cool. When cool enough to handle, cut away and discard fat. Remove meat from bones and set aside.
Step number three. DON'T BURN THE FLOUR.
Brown two cups of flour in frying pan carefully, watching constantly. When completely brown set aside.
Bring the reserved broth to a boil. Gradually add the heated broth to the browned flour whisking constantly until it turns to thick gravy. Add shredded meat and meat balls. Serve with cooked boiled potatoes.