From Julie Van Rosendaal
I read on the blog Serious Eats about a Colombian method of making chicharrónes – those crispy, crunchy bits of fried pork cracklings – that was a lot like rendering your own lard. You cut pork belly into chunks, put them into a wok and cover the pieces with water, then bring to a simmer and cook until the fat renders and the water evaporates. (This process takes a couple of hours, but only a few minutes of actual prep time.) You’re left with a bunch of smaller pork bits immersed in their own fat, at which point you can crank up the heat and deep fry them until they’re crisp and golden.
Another tip from Serious Eats:
rubbing the skin with baking soda and letting it sit for an hour (or up to a day) produces a more alkaline environment, which encourages the Maillard reaction – the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that helps foods brown under (or over) heat. It also accelerates the breakdown of proteins in the meat, tenderizing it. In fact, leaving the belly exposed to air – even putting it on a baking rack – as it sits with the soda helps the meat dehydrate a bit too. Getting rid of excess moisture is a good thing when your goal is crisp and crackly.
The crunchy, meaty bits (some chicharrónes are made with the skin only, with the meat and fat removed) can be tossed warm with salt and pepper or any number of spices – chile and sugar are common. Don’t forget a wedge of lime at the table.
- 1 pork belly (1 to 1-1/2 lbs.)
- 2 t. baking soda
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat the pork belly dry with paper towel and rub the skin with baking soda. Let sit, uncovered, for a couple of hours, or refrigerate, uncovered, for up to a day.
Rinse the pork belly well and pat it dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces that are less than half an inch thick. Put the pieces into a wok or deep, narrow pot (if the surface area is too wide your rendered fat might not be deep enough). Cover the pork with water and set over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the fat renders and the moisture cooks off. Once the bits of pork are submerged, turn up the heat and cook until deep golden and crisp. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and toss with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Serves about 4.