Chicharrónes

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Third try is a charm.

Chicharrones, the original pork flavored cheesy poof.
The final product looks great, but none of the steps along the way are pretty, so take
a deep breath and get ready.

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This recipe starts with a piece of pig skin. In this case I’m using
skin from a pork belly. You can tell that it’s pork belly because you
can see the pig’s nipples. Hey, I told you the steps along the way aren’t pretty.

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First thing we do is cut away the nipples.
Then flip over the skin and scrape away as much fat as possible.
In this photo you can see what a terrible butcher I am. Look at all that
delicious pork belly meat that I failed to properly separate from the skin!
Fortunately, none of it is going to waste. Everything that you trim
off at this stage, keep.   It’s all going into the stock pot.

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Once you’ve scraped away as much as you can, it’s ready to be boiled.
I put the skin into a stock pot along with all the trimmed meat and fat, and a bunch of chicken bones.  This way, I’m making two recipes at once: boiled pig skin for chicharrones, and chicken stock fortified with extra flavor and gelatin from the pig.

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Not much to see here, which is fortunate since it’s out of focus. Let the pig skin boil until it’s completely soft, at least four hours. If you’re doing what I did and making stock, by the time the stock is done, the pig skin will be very done.   Remove the pig skin from the stock, sandwich it between sheets of parchment, sandwich that between two sheet pans, and set it into the fridge to cool and set flat.

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Your cooked, chilled pig skin should look something like this.

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Now, scrape all the rest of the fat off of the skin that you missed the last time around.

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Dice the pig skin into slivers. According to my chef friends, a piece of skin cut to the size of your pinky finger will make a chicharron about the size of your hand. I cut mine into tiny matchsticks, but I might try a little bit larger next time.  Next, the sliced pig skin gets dehydrated.

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After 12 hours in the dehydrator, you should have hard little slivers of pig skin, like so.

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And now, you’re ready for the fun part. Drop those little slivers into hot oil, and in seconds they poof up into chicharrones. This happens so fast that I couldn’t quite manage dropping them in, photographing, and pulling them out before they burn — which takes maybe 10 seconds — so I just have one test shot.

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It literally takes only a few seconds to cook these. In the time it took me to drop them in, reach down and pick up the spider to fish them out, they were done. Set them on a paper towel and season however you like.

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Chicharrones
pig skin
oil for deep frying

Scrape all fat from the pig skin.
Boil it.
Chill it.
Scrape all the fat again. This time really get it all off.
Cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Dehydrate it.
Deep fry it.
Season it.
Eat it.

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