Buying whole hogs, the one thing I had trouble using up was the skin. Then finally someone explained chicharrónes to me.
I have always associated chicharrónes with Mexico, but apparently they are common throughout the Spanish-speaking world, and happen to be wildly popular in the Philippines. Even though it is usually a very casual snack, served at bars or sold at gas stations, making chicharrón has become an essential technique for me, even in a fine-dining restaurant. I often have pork skin on hand, and while I’ve discussed some of the ways to use it, nothing is as satisfying and delicious a transformation as chicharrón.
They are surprisingly versatile. In the photo above they act as a canapé base, topped with atchara, coconut sweet potato, fresno chili, and cilantro. They are also a fantastic garnish on pork dishes. Below they accompany pork belly, cornbread, jicama, and fermented chili.
- pork skin, very clean, free of bristles (if using skin from the belly, remove nipples)
- fine salt as required
- canola oil for frying
- Put pork skin in a heavy pot and cover with cold seasoned water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. [Editor’s Note: a Filipino colleague of mine suggests adding aromatics during this simmering process. For instance onion, garlic, black pepper, bay….]
- Transfer boiled skin to a sheet tray and cool thoroughly in the fridge before proceeding.
- Use a spoon to scrape absolutely all of the subcutaneous fat left on the underside of skin.
- Put scraped skin into a food dehydrator and 50°C overnight.
- At this point the skin can be stored in a Cambro at room temperature.
- Break the hardened skin into tabs about 2″ x 1″.
- Heat a fryer to 370°F. Deep fry the skin pieces until they have puffed and bubbling has subsided. Immediately season with fine salt.
- Store the finished chicharrón in an airtight container at room temperature, ideally with silica gel packets within to keep them dry and brittle. If chicharrón cannot be stored airtight, they may need to be returned to the dehydrator every week to dry out and become crisp again.