In Filipino cooking, when one says nilaga (boiled), one is referring to a soup dish made with boiled meat and a medley of vegetables. All my previous nilaga recipes were served that way–as a soup dish. But have you ever tried serving the meat and vegetables on a platter with bowls of steaming hot soup on the side? That was what I did for today’s lunch. The vegetables were gone long before the meat was. See, I cooked my nilagang pata ng baboy with my kids’ favorite vegetables–carrots, potatoes, and kalabasa (squash). They found it easier to serve themselves too since there were no soup splatters.
So, aside from the presentation, what else makes this dish special? For one thing, slow cooking pata allows the ligaments to boil into the broth. The resulting broth is thicker, richer and a little sticky. Second, if you cook the pata whole, the meat in the innermost parts will be tender without acquiring a dry texture. Third, the bones in the pata will yield a milky flavorful broth.
Wash the pata well and scrape the skin with a knife. Use a kitchen torch to burn any remaining hair. Cut through the joint that separates the leg from the feet (trotters). Place is a large casserole and cover with water. Add the whole garlic and onion, peppercorns and bay leaf. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, skimming off scum as it rises. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for an hour and a half to two hours or until the meat is fork tender. When the meat is done, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving platter. Strain the broth.
While the pata cooks, prepare the vegetables. Peel the carrot and potatoes and cut into wedges. Cut off the skin of the squash and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into wedges.
Reheat the strained broth and bring to a boil. Add the carrot wedges and simmer for five minutes. Add the potato wedges and simmer for about eight to ten minutes. Finally, add the squash wedges and continue simmering for another seven to eight minutes. Scoop out the vegetables and arrange beside the boiled pata. If you wish you may reheat the pata in the broth just before serving. Sprinkle the pata and vegetables with chopped parsley or mint for added flair.
Ladle the broth into individual soup bowls and serve on the side. For an even better gastronomic experience, serve the pata and vegetables with a dipping sauce made with equal amounts of freshly-squeezed kalamansi (native citrus) juice and patis.