I was cleaning out my iMovies and came across this quick clip my son James filmed a while ago. I'd just been to Bar Symon to break down a hog American style. Matt Harlan was the chef there (he's now back at Lolita, front of the house) and the kitchen was huge; he had a hog ready and a big table to break it down on. I'd done it and written about it but needed to be able to teach someone else to do it. And I needed to be sure my verbal descriptions were accurate.
After we'd finished both sides, and Donna and I were packing to go, Matt, aka Chatty Matty, gave me a piece of their prepared pork skins. His boss, Michael Symon, had picked up the technique from Paul Kahan, who serves them at Publican in Chicago. Often, cracklins, pork rinds, chicharrónes, are thick, fatty and crunchy-chewy. It all depends on how much fat you take off. To cook any pig skin, you cook it low and slow in moist environment (water, stock, or sous vide). Then you cook it in oil and it becomes delectably crisp. The skin itself is connective tissue—protein, not fat. But as any one who has deep fried ears or skin-on pork belly knows, the skin is still filled with water and pops and spits when you put it in the oil
The trick here is to get all the water out before you cook it. Braise the skin in water or stock with aromats and 1% to 2% salt (these guys really need salt for flavor). When the skin is tender enough to poke finger and thumb through, let it cool in the liquid (the liquid can be strained and added to any stock for great body; it's got much of the skin's protein in it), then scrape off all the fat, dehydrate till it's paper thin and completely brittle, then fry it in 350 degree oil. Season with salt and some hot smoked paprika. So good. (See for yourself. And thank you James for shooting and editing the video!) If you don't have a ready supply of pig skin, and can't bear to go a whole day without this incredible food, head to Kahan's Publican. No better afternoon snack!
If you liked this post on Pig Skin, check out these other links:
- My post on breaking down a whole hog.
- Momofuku chicharrones (pork rinds) recipe from the blog Momofuku for Two
- The official chicharrones for Cochon 555 are from 4505 Meats in San Francisco.
- Another style of chicharrones are made with pork belly, shared by Nasty Bits from Serious Eats
© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved