I haven’t been experimenting as much as I used to. It’s something I really miss doing, but all the other things that vie for attention have gotten in the way recently. For months now, I have had this idea on the back burner, and yesterday we were able to finally take a first “crack” at it. I wanted ginormous chicharon. More for the novelty factor and to have something on display for tourists at our airport kiosk this summer that would draw attention (good or bad)… but also so a bunch of friends traveling together might break off bits of chicharon while chatting about nothing in particular. A social chicharon. :)
In theory it seemed simple enough, take a huge piece of skin (skin only in this case, as skin and fat as we normally use for our meaty chicharon is too big and cumbersome) and boil it until tender then render it in lard and finally deep fry it in hot, hot lard. But in practice, it’s hard to prevent the skin from curling up, and thinner parts burn faster than thicker parts, edges cook faster than the center, etc.
So I approached our chicharon supervisor and explained what I wanted to attempt. He was a bit skeptical at first, but no one is really allowed to be skeptical at Zubuchon, since they have seen bizarre idea after bizarre idea end up working, and I simply told him to experiment, and not to worry if we ended up going through several skins in the process. I sort of gave him a couple of weeks to play with the idea. But he is an overachiever, so about 4 hours later, he presented me with the platter up top! OMG, that’s a show stopper of a chicharon, if you ask me. Wicked good with chili vinegar. Not perfected yet, but way ahead of the experimentation curve, if you ask me!
To prevent curling, Gidor inserted bamboo sticks into the skin to keep it spread out. He rendered it in lard as other typical pieces of skin/fat were being rendered. Then he removed this, heated up a vat of more lard and flash fried the rendered skin to see that final miraculous explosion into chicharon occur. He proudly brought it into the office with a smile on his face, as if his earlier skepticism was now well and truly gone. Of course we are still several versions away from the final, as we have to figure out how to produce this in bigger quantities?, how do we package it so it doesn’t soften, how much seasoning is required?, how can we make it even more ginormous? etc., etc. Then of course I want to try the long curly chicharons from Bangkok markets, tiny bit sized pieces of thinly cut chicharon, and so many others… :)