In the Caribbean we find (delicious) ways to use just about every part of the animal (and bird).. dishes you must try before passing judgement. Souse is traditionally made with pig trotters, ears and snouts when I was growing up on the islands. However, chicken feet are also used, especially by people who don’t dine with the swine! Souse is basically a spicy pickle, served cool (for the most part) with herbal and citrus notes, along with the kick of Caribbean Sunshine – scotch bonnet peppers.
You’ll find variations of this chicken foot souse recipe as you make your way up and down the island chain, so please use this as a beginners guide and don’t be afraid to personalize it a bit with your signature touch.
1 lb chicken feet (cleaned and trimmed)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
2 cloves garlic
water for boiling the chicken feet
3-5 cups of water for the souse
2 tablespoon shado beni (or cilantro)
1/2 large onion sliced thin
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
1 medium cucumber
Notes: Remember to wear gloves and to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling scotch bonnet (or an HOT) peppers. If you don’t want the raw heat, do not use the seeds of the pepper. I used Shado Beni (culantro), but you can use cilantro if you cannot source it.
Hopefully your butcher will clean and trim the chicken feet for you. In my case I had to trim off the sort of toe nails off the feet, then wash and place in a deep pot with water. Bring to a boil, add the salt and let them cook on a rolling boil until tender (about 40 minutes). If you see any sort of residue on the surface of the water, skim off and discard.
As they cook, you can use this time to prep the other ingredients. Thinly slice the onion, scotch bonnet pepper, shado beni, cucumber, lemon, scallion and finely dice (or crush) the garlic.
Drain and rinse the cooked chicken feet, then place then in a deep bowl.
Top with the sliced ingredients, go in with the black pepper, water and lime juice and mix well.
For best results mix well, cover and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours. All the flavors will start working to combine for a spectacular dish – served as you would soup.
If you want you can place the garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and shado beni in a food processor with a little water and blend until smooth.. that’s how you’ll find it when you purchase from vendors outside bars and night clubs. However I much prefer getting little bits of the fresh herbs and seasonings.