Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicharrón - The Other Style

While I was doing research on fried pork skin, I noticed there are two basic categories, with any number of variations on each. The super puffy version, (I already covered here), and the less puffy more crunchy version. This time I'm going to deal with the less puffed, but crunchier, style. This will be more of an account of the different trials I did rather than a recipe.
The glorious piece of fat-back you can see pictured was my testing medium.
I cut out a few pieces, baked one, covered, at 250F for 7 hours, oil poached one at 207F for 7 hours and, water poached one at 207F for 7 hours.
After letting all of these cool, just like with the other style, you want to fry them in hot oil. I cut a slice off of each and threw them into 400F oil. The baked and water poached reacted about the same in the oil, they both created huge bursting pockets of steam, which if I didn't have a splatter guard, would have spewed oil all over anything within 3 feet. They did turn into crunchy fried pork, but the way to go is cooked in a fat (it pops less, but still use a guard).
So now that I have some oil poached fat-back I had to figure the best way to finish it. I trimmed off the meat because it was a totally separate layer in terms of texture and cooking time (it crisps before the fat). This left me with 1.5cm worth of fat sitting on top of skin. Being sure not to go through the skin, I made several cuts into the fat to allow oil to crisp in-between the cuts.

Frying the fat cut like this forces the skin and fat to curve and open, crisping the large section of fat. I enjoyed this result the most. I can't draw a conclusion on frying pork fat, skin and meat yet, but I know gently poaching pork fat and skin in fat, letting it cool, slicing it to increase the surface area, and then frying in hot oil makes a very tasty treat. Here is what it looked like.
 Plate it up!
Pork Fat-Back Chicharrón with Glazed Broccoli Rabe, Lacto-Fermented Beets, Rhubarb Compote and Lemon Zest

I am going to try this again with a section of pork belly, which has sections of fat and meat that are more intertwined than the stark contrast of layers from the back. This should prevent the muscle layers from being to dry and the fat layers from being to greasy, although I don't think fried fat-back, done this way, is too greasy.



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