29 September, 2011

Chicharones Revisted


Bacon rind chicharones.

Just when I thought bacon couldn't get any better, someone inspires me to deep fry bacon skin for pork rinds. Boy howdy this works, and the flavor is crispy bubbly bacon air.

In the previous episode, I revealed the secrets to making restaurant quality chicharones at home. It's a fun parlor trick to impress your foodie friends, but making them out of bacon rinds is an important step forward the evolution of pork rinds that should appreciated by both the amateur and the enthusiast alike. My thanks goes regular reader TC for the comment that triggered this bacon revelation. TC, I hope you test this recipe and post your results soon.

Bacon and hocks

Making Bacon

For these chicharones you're gonna need to make some bacon. Never made bacon before? No worries (as the kids say), check out my internationally recognized bacon manifesto, in it are detailed instructions on how to make bacon at home.

Peeling off the rind
To remove the skin you can either slice it off while it is still warm, or or wait a day and peel it off when it cold. The advantage to the cold peel is that there is less fat adhering to the skin. But be careful there can be spots where the fat really wants to stick and come off in large chunks. Go slow and steady and you'll be fine.
Bacon skin cooked just right.
Place the peeled skins flat in a pot and cover with water. Set to simmer. After about an hour check for doneness: If you can easily poke your finger through the skin, it's done.

scraping pork skins

Once cool, scrape the skins. It's annoying, but the cleaner they are, the more they pop.

Cut skins racked for drying

Once clean, cut the skins into Frito sized shapes and put them into a very low oven (or dehydrator) to dry. After several hours (four to twelve depending on the oven temp) you should have a hard, unbending bacon chit.

Bacon chits ready for the fryer

Set up the fryer station, heat to 375F.

Holding them under with the spider

Drop a few in at a time and hold them under the oil. After a few seconds they should pop. They should be done cooking in about thirty seconds.

Tossing with za'atar

Toss with seasoning. Salt and pepper is fine, or try some sort of mixture. I put together sumac, dried thyme, and sesame seeds ( that's za'atar, yo) along with a little citric acid, for a flavoring I call Dorito.

Tasty bacon flavor in a crispy snack. Try it!


08 September, 2011

Pondering the Pig Skin

Chicharones In this episode: Making chicharones at home, I got fired.

Many a gastropub in our fair city sport "housemade chicharones" on their menu. And why not? Fried pork skins are exotic, easy to make, and cheap. And, freshly made chicaharones are a refreshing revelation compared to their store bought compadres. Got a party coming up, want to impress your foodie friends with crispy craklings? Let's make chicharones.

Simmering pork skins outdoors

As usual, the hardest part of this exercise is finding the pork skin, but you don't need much, a couple of pounds should be plenty. Try looking for a latino or asian grocery, a meat packer, or special order from a butcher, somebody has this stuff laying around. At the restaurant, we got our pork skins from Grant Park Packing.

Cut the skins into large squares so that they will fit into your pot. Fill with water and bring them to a zippy simmer. They are done when they have softened enough that you can easily poke your finger through the skins, but not so cooked that they are falling apart. It should take 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain and allow to cool.

scraping pork skins

Now the skins need to be cleaned. You want nothing but skin, use a knife to remove the fatty rinds. It's tedious work but you can do it.

portioning pork skins

Once the skins are scraped clean, cut them in to little one inch squares, It sounds small but these babies will grow five times their size when they hit the fryer.

Dehydrating pork skins

Before we break out the fryer, our little pork chips need to be dried. Using wire racks and trays, dehydrate the chicharones in the oven at a low temperature, 160 to 200 F is fine. Or use a dehydrator. I used my oven. Depending of the temperature, 6-12 hours of drying will give you a good hard chit. They should not bend at all. Did I say this was easy? It is, just complicated.

Once dry, the chicharones will keep forever under refrigeration. Now you just need a party. To set up your frying station, you need a couple inches of oil and a pot. The larger the pot, the more oil, the you can fry at one time. Using a thermometer, heat oil to 350F, and start frying. They take less than a minute. Drain your little crispys and tosswith salt and pepper. If you're feeling daffy, make up different seasonings, like smoked paprika and granulated garlic. I made a puckery mix of sumac and citric acid. At the restaurant we used dehydrated lime powder and parmesan powder. We got these industrial ingredients from Terra Spice Company.

Ah yes "at the restaurant." In my previous post I mentioned that I was working in a restaurant, and didn't have the time to blog. Well the wait is over, last week I was unceremoniously dumped, and now I have plenty to time to look for another paying job, or blog. I worked for Three Floyds Brewpub for a year and a half and overall it was a great experience. I started out as a prep cook, for a brief time worked as the kitchen manager, and I had some fun cutting up hogs and making sausages. High points included running a menu that included an Alsatian Onion Tart (Flammekueche), a Montreal pastrami (Viande Fumée) and a Thai sausage (AKA the Bangkok Brat). I also had the opportunity to work for Chef Mike Sheerin. With him I participated in The Cochon555 event and the Green Market City BBQ. I learned a lot and in the coming months I will share some of these special nuggets with you. So strap on your sausage hats, it's time to get cooking (at home!) again.