What’s golden brown, crispy-fried, ooey-goey and delicious? Venison trotter cakes. Almost like a meat-filled tater tot, trotter cakes or cromesquis as they might be called are a little chef secret I’ve adapted to venison here. Most of the time you’re going to see them made with pork, which is how I was taught to make them from an old friend of mine—likely a trinket he brought back from his time as sous chef to Dan Barber at Blue Hill or his tour at Charlie Trotters restaurant in Chicago.
What the heck is a trotter cake? Well, if you’ve made headcheese, you’ll be familiar with how meat picked off the bone gets firm as a rock after braising, picking and chilling. The meat off a cooked trotter, if it can even be called that, is basically a mass of wiggly flubbery tissue, and, just like headcheese meat, once it’s chilled, it’s rock solid.
In it’s purest form, it will offend the uninitiated, but there’s a secret: mincing the meat ultra fine yields a sort of finely textured meat duxelles of sorts, one that you can use for all kinds like adding to soup and sauces. For the cakes, you simply chill minced, cooked trotter meat, then bread and deep fry. Warming up the trotter meat loosens all the collagen and stickyness that keeps everything all together, turning it into a decadent, crispy little morsel that no one has to know came from a deer’s foot.
Quick note on cromesquis here. This is a sort of archaic French culinary term that, at least to me, should specifically refer to morsels of fried confit if you’re a stickler (a little something I learned from Jean Francois Piege). That being said, “trotter cake” isn’t as romantic sounding as trotter cromesquis, so, every time I’ve seen cromesquis on a menu, they’ve been made with trotters. For the record too, if you’re in the Twin Cities area and want to try some, CHef Russell Kleins locally famous Meritage Brasserie usually has them
You can call them whatever you want, but for me, there’s a certain ring to deer foot tater tots.
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.