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Ketchup Is The Secret Ingredient Jacques Pépin Uses For Saucy, Spicy Chicken Feet

Chef Jacques Pépin
Chef Jacques Pépin - Brad Barket/Getty Images

Are you an avowed lover of meaty chicken feet or does the thought of the tiny, dinosaur-esque claws turn up your nose? Likely, you're in one of these two camps as few people have middling feelings about the delicacy. But what about when the legend himself, Jacques Pépin, is behind the recipe? The French chef is known for his technique-driven, yet unfussy and deceptively-simple dishes that pull from a range of cuisines, and his recipe for sweet and spicy chicken feet is no different. What may be a surprise is Pépin's sauce, which hinges on a common but possibly unforeseen ingredient that adds both body and flavor: ketchup.

Chicken feet are consumed the world over, and, by some, beloved for the copious rich skin and morsels of flavorful meat that abound on this admittedly odd-looking cut. Often chefs deploy the connective tissue-rich feet in stock and broth to add flavor and luxurious body. Pépin begins his dish by poaching the feet in salted water for about an hour to tenderize them, a method which he says also yields a nice stock when finished.

The sauce is inspired by Asian flavors and begins with sauteed scallions, garlic, and ginger to which he adds chicken stock, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Once it has reduced a bit, Pépin adds a healthy squeeze of ketchup to add body, tang, and sweetness to his sauce before adding the chicken feet and tossing to coat them in the sticky pan glaze.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Ketchup Brings Body And A Burst Of Flavor

ketchup splattered on white background
ketchup splattered on white background - Nataly Studio/Shutterstock

So what's a master of French gastronomy like Pépin doing adding an ingredient like ketchup to his dish? Well, if you know anything about his style, you know that the chef pulls from any and all resources to make his dishes delicious and approachable to professionals and home cooks alike. If it tastes good, Pépin has no problem deploying it in a recipe.

And this isn't a one-off occurrence of ketchup in one of Pépin's dishes. He frequently uses the condiment to give sauces and glazes a punchy sweetness and round mouthfeel, especially with robust, meaty flavors. For instance, Pépin's medallions of pork tenderloin are quickly seared to create a deep crust while keeping the meat juicy and yielding. He then dresses them with a sauce that gets a fruity tang from pomegranate juice, a savory element from stock, and a few tablespoons of ketchup to round it all out. Likewise, salmon, one of the more assertively-flavored fish, gets a sweet, Asian influenced glaze by Pépin. Before baking salmon filets in a hot oven, he brushes them with an easy-to-prepare three-ingredient mixture of sesame oil, chili oil or chili sauce, and ketchup, which adheres nicely to the fish and caramelizes on the outside. The rich flesh is complemented nicely by the nutty sweetness and tinge of spice that comes from his innovative glaze.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.