Cueritos: Pickled Pork Rinds from Tortas Paquime

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: Pickled Pork Rind served up by Tacos Paquime.

The Ick Factor: Pickling any kind of meat product is generally a recipe for disaster. Veggies like cucumbers, giardiniera, peppers and okra are one thing. Everyone loves a gherkin. We've met few who profess the same undying love for pickled pig feet, hog hocks, herring, eggs, or tongue (aside from our grandpa). Pickled pork rinds are just as weird, since you're essentially eating skin that's been chopped into tiny strips and brined until jellied.

(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)

The Offal Choice: Off the antojitos menu (the equivalent of Mexican munchies) we ordered a tall glass of cueritos. Strips of pickled pork rind piled high with a slaw composed of cabbage, cucumber, lime and chile sauce.

Tastes Just Like: The cueritos had a slightly salty flavor profile due to the brine it was pickled in, but on the whole they were fairly innocuous and took on the taste of what they were mixed with. In this case, our pork rinds were spicy from the chile sauce, tart from the fresh lime juice, and cool from the addition of cabbage and cucumber.

Again, as is the case with most offal, it's really the texture that is most off-putting because the flavor was a nice blend of savory and spicy. The texture of the cueritos was a bit like biting into a chewy, jellied meat product. The pork rinds spring against your teeth when chewing, and have an almost cartilaginous texture.

You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: Considering it's pickled pork rind, you need a solid brine on those strips or they'll run a bit on the chewy side, and when your pork rind is already inherently chewy, you kind of want to avoid that scenario.

Always been a DIY-er? Look for jars of pickled pork rind in the Mexican aisle of just about any grocery store. El Mexicano is one brand that has never let us down, and it comes peppered with tiny carrots afloat in tasty brine. Use pickled pork rinds as a substitute for any kind of taco or tostada topping, or try your hand at making one of Taco Paquime's antojitos for yourself: paquitostitos (Mexican potato chips topped with all sorts of goodness), chilindrinas (pork rinds topped with avocado and slaw), or the cueritos (pork rinds topped with Mexi-slaw).

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Erica O'Neil