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.



Andrew said...

Sorry you got let go, but good to have you back blogging. I've wanted to hit Three Floyds for Dark Lord day!

Dave said...

My condolences as well, awesome post though! I'll be hunting down some skin.

WasabiBratwurst said...

Chicharron is easily accessible around here in SD, but we will give it a try for the homemade again. Last time, we did the no boil method and it turned out to be a long winded.... meh. Terribly sorry to hear about the boot, but truly happy to see the blog back! :)

TC said...

Sorry to hear you got wacked... been there done that. But.. glad to see you back on your blog. The funny thing is is that I was trying to figure out exactly the same thing... what to do with the skin after the last time I made bacon

mac said...

Oh TC you inspire me. I made some bacon last week. Check out the bacon rind chicharones post.

Thanks to everyone for writing.


TC said...

That's what us Chicagoans do... lean on each other to survive both winter and Bear's games. lol. I think I'm officially out of bacon too so will be checking out your revisions.

Walter Jeffries said...

Thanks for the pork rind recipe. We have been experimenting with these and will try your method. We raise pigs on pasture and have lots of skin every week - it's not a big seller although there is some demand. In the future I hope to make puffed pork rinds in our commercial kitchen of the new meat processing facility we're building for our farm. That's a few years down the road. First we have to get the butchering and slaughter going smoothly, then smoking... It's a journey. :)

Sugar Mountain Farm
in Vermont
Keep blogging and don't look too hard for a job. It might distract you from writing. :)