Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the valley.
This week: Dos Ranchitos Pork Craklins.
The Ick Factor: Pork cracklins are made from a product called fatback. (Not back fat, which is the condition that plagues bikini-clad beach bunnies.) Fatback is the thick layer of fat that runs down the back of a pig. In the case of pork cracklins, that fat is fried up (sometimes with a bit of skin attached) to yield a light and airy treat.
Fatback can also be rendered to make a vat of lard, stewed to give crazy flavor to your baked beans, pickled with some skin like cueritos, and abused just about any other way your fat-loving culinary mind can imagine.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: One big ass package of eat-your-feelings fried pork fat: Dos Ranchitos Pork Cracklins.
Tastes Just Like: Porky potato chips. Just like the tater chips of infamy, you can't eat just one. Even if the thought of munching on the fat they use to make lard sounds a bit off, you'll probably find yourself covered in pork cracklin crumbs before you realize it.
They have a light and airy crunch with a fatty flavor that rolls around in your mouth and hits the "oh yeah, gimme that delicious fat" part of your evolutionary wiring. The flavor is fairly light with a hint of burned bacon, which is unsurprising considering some fatback is similar to bacon if it has enough lean meat marbling it.
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You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It's fried fat. Like fried butter, fried coca-cola, fried snickers, and any other unholy matrimony between an artery buster and a deep fryer, there's no improper way to deep fry your cracklins. Although we would recommend sprinkling them in salt and chile, or some barbecue seasoning fresh out the fryer.
Always been a DIY-er? If you're interested in DIY pork cracklins, you actually end up with a two for one deal. After chopping up your fatback and sticking it into a pot, you cook it until the bits crisp, turn brown, make a crackle sound, and float to the top. You have just rendered lard and fried up some pork cracklins. That's called killing two fully functional arteries with one stone.