Cracklins Cacio e Pepe
Cockscomb, San Francisco
“Cracklins, dried and puffed pig skin, are like the pork rinds you see in a bodega. You can find a range of ratios of fat to meat in these snacks, and sometimes, as here, it’s just skin. In this recipe, we flavor them with cheese and pepper, like the Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe. It’s a great snack, even better if you grate Pork Liver Bottarga on top of it. The ultimate is making coronets (cones) of cracklins filled with pork liver mousse. This recipe makes a generous quantity, but it scales up and down readily. It may make sense to prep a lot of it at once, as the cooked and dried skin can be kept for weeks in an airtight container at room temperature before frying.” —Chris Cosentino in his 2018 Beard Award–nominated Offal Good
- 2 1/2 pounds pig skin
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 bulb fennel
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Neutral oil, like canola or rice bran oil, for frying
- Pecorino cheese, for shaving
- Aleppo pepper, for dusting
- Parsley chiffonade, for garnish
Season the pig skin liberally on both sides with salt and black pepper. Lay it in a deep pan with the carrot, celery, fennel, and onion. In a cheesecloth sachet, wrap the herbs and spices, and add it to the pan. Mix in the wine, cover, and let marinate overnight in the fridge.
Place a wire rack in the bottom of a large, heavy pot. Add the marinated vegetables, white wine, and skin. Add enough salted water to cover the ingredients generously. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the skin is very tender, about 2 hours. Check its doneness by seeing if the skin tears by hand, with just the slightest bit of resistance; we’re actually trying to overcook it.
Lay the skin out flat in a single layer on parchment-lined sheet trays. Cover and refrigerate the skin for 4 hours, or until very firm. Using a bench scraper, remove all the fat from the bottom of the skin, and dehydrate the skin for up to 36 hours, either in a dehydrator or in an oven with just the pilot light on and the fan running, until dry and brittle. Break these into small, snack-size pieces. (At this point, the skin may be stored for weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, with a silica gel pack if available.)
Preheat a deep fryer or large pot with several inches of oil to 375°F. Fry just a few pieces of skin at a time; they should triple in size as they fry and look like puffy, white edible Styrofoam when cooked. Drain the skin in a large bowl lined with paper towels and season with salt. Let the skin rest for a few minutes; otherwise it will be chewy. Toss with shaved pecorino and black pepper to taste. Top with Aleppo pepper and parsley.
Reprinted from Offal Good. Copyright © 2017 by Chris Cosentino. Photography copyright © 2017 by Michael Harlan Turkell. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.