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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pork fat. What's not to love?

The other day I just had a hankering for some crunchy, salty, chicharrones or cracklins (aka deep fried pig skin). For those repulsed at the thought of eating something like that I offer a few nutritional facts for you to munch on. Almost 50% of the fat in chicharrones are unsaturated. Most of which is oleic acid - the good kind of fat found in olive oil, for example. So it would behoove you to save the fat rendered from the chicharrones to use in cooking since it's healthier than butter and offers a lovely nutty flavor, too.

There are different methods in making chicharrones.
One method is to rub it with baking soda and let it sit overnight in the fridge before frying as in this recipe. The baking soda conditions the pork skin making it brown more efficiently. The recipe gives a more in-depth explanation. Another way is to bake it and then fry it. But for now since I absolutely HAD to have some immediately, relatively speaking, I followed this recipe. So I bought some pork belly and set to work cutting up the pink and white, silky slab of fat into bite sized chunks while the beers were chilling. Then it gets a little spa treatment in a simmering bath of salted water and baking soda before frying. Keep in mind the whole cooking process takes a little bit of time. Longer than, say, ripping open a bag of chips. But it's soooo worth the wait. Number one - you're making it yourself and can control the amount of salt you put on it and number two - the fat is far less saturated than chips. So if you're going to indulge in something salty and fatty you might as well have the healthier alternative. You're probably getting a little protein as well since this IS pork belly and not just fat back.


After simmering the pork for ten minutes, (which renders some nice pork stock pictured here), they are drained, patted dry and then slowly simmered in home-rendered lard on low heat. You can simply cook them in a heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven without the additional lard but to properly deep fry you need more as there won't be enough fat rendered from the pork skin. Please don't buy commercial lard as it's crap. Worst case add a little canola oil as the fat is rendered out of the pork while cooking. That's what I did and it worked just fine.

This process takes about half an hour and you need to be there to give them a stir every so often to evenly brown each piece. Be careful, though, as they tend to spit as the moisture is released. Have a splatter screen handy to cover while you gently stir the pork.

After they've reached a deep color you'll want to increase the heat and really crisp them up before removing from the pan. About 5-8 minutes. Drain (don't forget to save the lard!) and sprinkle with sea salt add a good squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve.

Getting some nice color here but not quite done...

Fresh, crunchy chicharrones with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt. All you need to complete the picture is an ice cold cerveza and you're in hog heaven!