Whenever I go to groceries with relatively large meat sections, and it’s apparent that they butcher whole animals on the premises, I inevitably ask for particular pieces or cuts of meat, hoping they will answer in the affirmative. One half of a whole pork belly is always on my wish list. Often, when I ask for the hind legs of a pig, they inevitably answer they don’t have any, but have lots of less meaty front legs of the pig instead… So I was thrilled the other day when the butcher said they had pata or hind legs in stock. While they were bigger than the typical front leg pieces, they were still quite demure in size, so I decided to get two pieces. Back home, I thought I would try two different recipes…
The first pata was simmered for 1.5 hours in lots of water, bay leaves, peppercorns and onions and a little salt, until tenderish. This was then thoroughly cooled down, and stored covered, in the refrigerator overnight. This was destined for a crispy pata recipe.
The second pata was brined in salt water for some 15 hours or so, then dried it all off, and massaged with a spice rub I have used on baby back ribs before, here, and allowed to sit for 2 hours. I then slow cooked this leg for some 2.5 hours at 275-300F heat until just cooked through. Then I slathered it with barbecue sauce, and stuck it back into a hotter oven (375F) for another 20-30 minutes or so. I was aiming for a soft, barbecued style leg of pork. The outer portions of the meat tasted like barbecue, but the insides were pretty juicy but bland. Overall, I wasn’t too thrilled with the results.
Meanwhile, we took the other pata out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for some 45-60 minutes. Heated up a large wok and added lots of oil. When it was hot, the cook covered up her arm with protective anti-fat splatter guards, and started deep frying the pata. The first few seconds were like New Year’s Eve fireworks, but once the moisture was vaporized, the leg just sputtered in the hot fat. Yum. What is it about fried pork that is so delicious? But I have to say, I am increasingly finding all forms of crispy pata to be lacking in moisture and real flavor. The crispy skin and outer meat is higly desirable, but I am beginning to think that slow-braised recipes for pata are much better than the fried alternative… But throw in some nice acharra (papaya pickles), a sawsawan or dip of soy sauce, chillies, kalamansi or vinegar… and I suspect any quibbling about which pata is best would quickly disappear… :)