Top chefs are favoring pork rinds as a snack, especially for the Super Bowl parties. In recent years, America has taken quite an appetite for the salty fatty pork snack. To be more technical, pork skin has been around for centuries and throughout many cultures. Take for example the Cajun cracklings, crunchy salted skin of Cuban-style cooked pig, siu yuk a Chinese pork belly, the Filipino vinegar-dipped lechon, and chicharron folded into tortillas, which all attest to the fact that crisp pork is delicious. Although this snack is probably not on the world’s healthiest list, it is so good that keeping up with a healthy diet will be nothing more than an afterthought.
Chefs are starting to embrace the snack trend that up until recently had experienced a popularity boost among snackers. For example, April Bloomfield, chef at Breslin in New York, fries up skins a la British, called scratchings, and sells them as a snack for $5 a bag. Ryan Farr, a butcher in San Francisco, sells pork skins fried in rice oil at the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market. Then there is chef Sara Jenkins of Porchetta, who has become popular for the pork skin she sells at $25 a pound. If trekking outside the home boundaries is not an option, here are some tips on making your own at home.
It is tough to make it at home since it is tough to cut, and creating the crackling effect is somewhat difficult, sometimes leaving an unwanted chewiness. For chefs, the fresher the skin, the better for cooking, and the use of a special combi oven is essential to getting that perfect crispy texture. Unfortunately, these ovens aren’t around many kitchens so Chef Jenkins provides a cheaters guide. The trick is to score the boneless pork shoulder with skin, tie it, and leave it in the oven for five hours.
Another option is to try cracklings, which are always a fun party snack. Named for their crispy texture that bursts warm fat inside your mouth, cracklings are a staple in Cajun country. That actually may sound a little gross but the mix of the salty skin and the taste of the fat is actually pretty delicious. Donald Link, chef and owner of two New Orleans restaurants, has a few suggestions for making cracklings. All that is needed is a few pints of peanut oil, a deep pot, and some pork belly. Use a two-step method much like making French fries and then coat them in a peppery Cajun spice mixture.
For foodies who crave something more tantalizing than the required guacamole for the big game, take a gander at pork rinds, full of flavor and just as fatty.