I remember the hoopla when President Bush (the first one) was observed enjoying Pork Rinds/Chicharrónes at some outdoor gathering in Texas. He had already admitted to disliking broccoli, so health advocates were apoplectic about the example he was setting. Views on what’s good for us and what’s bad for us have always been in flux, but it seemed clear at the time that cholesterol was poison, and cruciferous anti-oxidants were going to save us from the horror of diet sodas. Needless to say, ol’ George is still around, as news circulates that the sugar industry has been bribing scientists to understate the dangers of carbo-loading.
This is a variant of the sinful snack that might not be so sinful after all. Usually, Chicharrónes are made from pork skin, and it’s not scientifically difficult to achieve, but it helps to have a feel for it. The skin must be dried just right, so that when it hits the very hot oil, the tiny amount of water that remains trapped in it instantly vaporizes, created the airy, almost popcorn like effect. Part of the mechanism for success is the presence of a large amount of collagen, and not much else in the tissue, so pork skin is perfect.
Chicharrónes–Beyond the Muscle
As it turns out, pork skin is not the only thing that works for this. Beef tendon is not very common in American markets, but Asian markets usually carry it. Its concentration of collagen is high enough that the tissue is pretty much pure white. With a little creativity and patience, Sous Vide can produce an intriguing version–especially for people who don’t eat pork. Beef Tendon Chicharrónes. Wow.
- In the raw state, they really do look like something that came out of an injured athlete’s knee, for good reason. You can see the casing, the sheath, and the rope like tendon that has been severed.
- Load the tendons into Ziploc Quart bags, and process. This stuff is really, really, strong, so, I usually use…
165Fx24 hours, and then pinch.
- Don’t be surprised if they are still tough, it may even take another 24 hours.
- Even if it goes 24 hours TOO long, it will still work.
- When you pinch it in the bag, it should offer little or no resistance.
- Remove from the tank, and dump the bag out into a container.
- Allow to cool long enough to handle easily
- Grind through the fine blade of a meat grinder, juices and all
- Load into a loaf pan, and refrigerate.
- When it cools, it will come right out of the container, and look like this.
- If you have an electric slicer, use it to create rectangles that are as thin as possible, without sacrificing structural integrity.
- If you DON’T have an electric slicer, us a sharp knife to slice pieces as thin as you can. Don’t stress–this is low tech stuff. It will work.
- Arrange the rectangles on a non stick surface, I use a silicone sheet. Silicone sheets are great, and not expensive. I highly recommend them.
- Dry the chicharrónes in a 170F oven until they are totally dry–they will be hard, not flexible. Unwilling to fold. Let them cool, and remove them from the sheet pan.
- If done properly, they will not stick together.
- Heat enough oil in a pan to deep fry the chicharrones, I like it about 2″ deep.
- Using a thermometer, heat the CLEAN oil to at least 375F–this is very important. Traditional preparers heat the oil until it smokes, which makes me anxious, but, it really does have to be hot, hot, hot.
- Drop one rectangle in the oil.
- It will do nothing for about 1 second, then it will start to sizzle, and puff–be careful, they spit sometimes. If it doesn’t work, they’re probably not dry enough. Results vary.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt,and serve just like you would chips or in your favorite recipe that calls for the pork version.
- You will get several different effects, based on the thickness.
HOW CAN AIR TASTE SO GOOD?
- Crispy, airy, on a sandwich, don’t get me started.
- Kosher salt and some Frank’s/Durkee’s
- Best served on rustling wax paper, radishes, lime, salt. Leave that bottle of Tequila right here.
- With some romantic lighting, you get chi-chi appeal.
- My favorite thing about these is my wife won’t eat them.
- I know she wants to try them, I tart them up just to torture her.
- Even up close, truly mystifying in appearance, so much shape and texture from something most people throw out. How on Earth did anybody discover this?