Despite what the supermarket aisles 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 meats from establishments across the Valley.
This week: Pig Skin (Chicharrones) served up by Huauchinango Mexican Grill.
The Ick Factor: While fried chicken skin has made the jump into finger lickin' territory, humble pork skin has been left behind to fry in convenience store hell. The only introduction most people have to pork skin is in fried pork rind form, also known as chicharrones, which leave greasy fingers and a heavy heart. And not figuratively-- those things are loaded in fat!
For years they've been the perfect choice of late night drunken munchers, but what you may not realize is that the skin from those fatty rinds is often prepared in a different fashion south of the border. In addition to frying up these cracklin' pork skins, chicharrones are also stewed until soft and gelatinous. And you though gelatinous eats went out of style in those mid-century modern cookbooks (jellied tongue anyone?).
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: Chicharrones quesadillas smothered in tomatillo sauce and topped with queso blanco, courtesy of the tongue-twisting Huauchinango Mexican Grill. They will serve up chicharrones just about any way you can dream it. Tacos, sopas, quesadillas, tortas, tostadas, tamales-- the only limit is your gullet.
Tastes Just Like: Jellied pork. The soft stewed chicharrones were reminiscent of their fried porky bretheren, with a light pork flavor that was a bit on the musky side. This may be due in part to the spicy, earthy, tomato-based flavors infused in the chicharrones from stewing.
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While the flavor is light and innocuous, similar to tendon, the texture is most decidedly not that subtle. Stewed chicharrones are spongy and spring against your teeth when chewing. The fat and collagen in the meat (if it can be called that?) also lends a squirmy mouth-feel as the slippery pork skin slides around in your maw while chewing. If texture is a deal breaker for you, I would recommend staying with the crispy pork rinds.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: If the chicharrones are not stewed long enough, they runs the risk of possibly being more tough and rubbery than expected. Similar to all the other stewed skin you have peeled off of chicken in the past.
Always Been a DIY-er? Hit up a Mexican market and walk away with some pork skin, or if you're feeling really fancy, pork belly. The skin to fat to meat ratio in pork belly could make some mighty fine stewed chicharrones.
Know of some offal we have to try? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.