A Brit, a Yank and a Kitchen

Tuesday, January 26

Home Made Chicharrones

Also known as, Pork cracklins.

I've always been huge fan of all forms of pork, especially kinds that include a nice crispy skin. This does not include the horrible bastardization of pork rinds you find all across America that are so distant from their original incarnation theyve become nothing more than lightly flavored pork Styrofoam.

So wouldnt it be my luck, that once again, I find another oddity at Publix. Sort of like that heart I found a while back. I was looking through the pork cuts when my eyes landed on a simple small pack of pork skin. Just... pork skin. And only one. 46 cents. I grabbed it and rummaged through the rest of the pork, but indeed this one the only one... I have never seen pork skin at Publix before..... usually the skin is removed from every cut of pork the is sold in the US.. due to our strange squeemishness of sush things. Little do we realize, like the rest of the world knows, that this is probably one of the tastiest bits on the pig.
Americas most neglected pig bit.

So I took my little piece of skin home and prepared some chicharrones.

First, I cut the skin into little squares, and simmered them, skin side down, in water mixed with about 1 TBSP of baking soda for about 10 minutes. This supposedly conditions the skin for frying.

Once drained, cooled and very thoroughly dried (you're about to fry these and water + oil is NOT good) , I added a tiny bit of oil to my cast iron pan, and began frying the skin, fat side down first, to render the fat and finish crisping any meat still attached. Then, flipped them over to the skin side and let them crisp up til golden and bubbly. And drained them on a paper towel just like you would bacon. At this point while they were still hot, I sprinkled a generous amount of salt all over them. Salt is the only seasoning you should need, as the pork flavor on its own is wonderfully savory and strong.

I will say though... be prepared for some massive popping and splattering!!! I even had one piece completely jump out of the pan.

They turned out very tasty.... really wish it was easier to find skin like this. I was very pleased with my first attempt at home made chicharrones. :)

Sunday, January 24

Fried Gator

One reason to love living in Florida...and in this case... befriending a very unique breed of hunter.

After our regular outing to the Central Florida Highland Games last weekend, and playing at the archery range for a little bit, I decided I'd like to get back into archery. So I hopped in my little car and scooted myself over to an Archery Shop I'd driven past several times.

After picking out a bow (and noticing some beautiful hand-made ones)... testing it, and deciding to buy it, I paused and looked at all of the trophies on the walls.

Some of you might not know I work with leather, so I thought to myself, they must do something with these hides. So combined with the fact that I had just had a conversation with a Highland Cattle farmer about how he has to waste his beautiful hides because he can't find a tanner in the country to make it worth anything to him... but said he would sell untanned hides to me if I could learn to, or find someone, to tan them for me.. I was spurred to ask.

And out from the back of the shop came a most unique fellow. Not only does he tan all sorts of hides, from deer to gator.. and even more bizarre, fish and frog.... he even collects bark from trees to make his own tannins, as well as builds bows from the horns and bones of the animals his family hunts.

Truly.. nothing of the animals these people hunt go to waste. The way it should be. I love these people. And thats not because he offered to teach me tanning... or hooked me up with some fresh gator.... which is what this post is actually all about! Who'da thunk it right?

So yea... after about 2 hours of awesome conversation with this gem of a man.... and we got on the subject of cooking... he rushed off and back again with a frozen chunk of fresh wild Florida gator.

Very cool. I had only ever had silly little "gator bites"... made from farmed gator... that probably wasn't even raised in Florida and was god knows how old. Leaving little in the flavor department.

This gator was fantastic.... and did not "taste like chicken".... if I could compare it to anything, the texture was more like frog... and had a flavor closer to catfish... which you probably know I adore, since we eat it every single week.

I cooked it pretty much like I would fry chicken (or catfish!)....

Marinated it in 2 beaten eggs with a generous amount of cayenne and garlic powder for about 2 hours.

Then, dredged each piece in salted and peppered flour and fried til nice and golden in some oil in my iron pan.

I also made the dipping sauce.... about a cup of mayo, squirt of ketchup, spoonful of brown mustard, 2 spoonfuls of horseradish, several shakes of Franks hotsauce, some more cayenne, and a few shakes of garlic powder. Yea... I didnt get too specific, just kept messing with it til I got a flavor I liked. :)

Hopefully everyone gets to meet a person as awesome as this guy!