What's golden brown, crispy and delicious? Venison trotter cakes. Almost like a meat-filled tater tot, trotter cakes or cromesquis as they might be called are a classic French pork trotter recipe I've adapted to venison here.
Typically cromesquis are made with pork, which is how I was taught to make them by my friend. It was a recipe from his time as sous chef to Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Contemporary chefs like Ferran Adria and Grant Achatz have served versions of them too.
Besides meat, you can also make cromesquis from just about anything. Traditionally they're made with a salpicon, which is just diced ingredients bound with a white sauce such as bechamel. Caul fat and salt pork are often used too.
How it's made
If you've made classic pork headcheese, you'll be familiar with how meat picked off the bone gets firm braising, picking and chilling. Trotter meat is basically a mass of gelatinous tissue, and, just like headcheese meat, once it's chilled it's solid as a rock.
To prepare the meat, simmer a pork trotter or a couple venison trotters until the meat is falling off the bones. Cool it room temperature, remove all the meat, fat, and connective tissue and mince it as fine as possible.
To make the cromesquis, chill the finely minced, cooked trotter meat. When it's firm, cut the meat into cubes and bread with flour, egg and breadcrumbs and deep fry.
Warming loosens all the collagen that keeps everything all together, turning it into a decadent, crispy morsel that no one has to know came from a deer foot.
What to call them
Trotter cake" isn't as romantic sounding as cromesquis, but you can call them whatever you want. Deer foot tater tots have a certain ring to them.
Venison Trotter Cakes
- 6 oz finely minced cooked venison trotter, warmed (see recipe)
- 2 oz mushroom duxelles
- Fresh chopped Italian Parsley to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Lemon zest to taste
- 1 small clove garlic grated or mashed to a paste
- Kosher salt to taste
- All purpose flour as needed
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup breadcrumbs like panko pulsed in a food processor
- Mix the trotter cake ingredients, then taste a tiny bit, and adjust the seasoning for lemon zest, salt and pepper until it tastes good to you.
- Pack the mixture into a mold like a loaf pan lined with cling film and refrigerate until rock solid, at least a few hours. Unmold the trotter loaf and slice into cubes or fry-able morsels.
- Toss the pieces of trotter loaf with flour, then dip in egg and toss in breadcrumbs. Chill the cakes to firm them, alternately they can be frozen, and then deep fried from frozen which will ensure the crust stays crisp, since after a few days in the fridge the breadcrumbs will get soft.
- Deep fry the trotter cakes until golden (350F is good, although I don’t usually use a thermometer). Alternately, you can shallow fry them in a cast iron skillet. Allow the cakes to cool for a moment on a paper towel before putting on a plate or eating.
- Serve with lemon wedges or a zingy dip like aioli. And be careful not to burn yourself, since trotter cakes can be deliciously molten.