Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicharron En Salsa Verde

     Chicharrones are popular everywhere from Andalucia to the Philippines.  Chicharrones are made in South America, Cuba, Puerto Rico and nearly every latin country.  Chicharrones are called cracklins in American southern states.

     Latin chicharrones recipes vary with the local ingredients.  Today's blog entree is a Mexican chicharron recipe.  In Mexico, chicharron en salsa verde is commonly served for breakfast.
     There are a few great Mexican recipes that have a reputation for curing a hangover from drinking too much tequila the night before.  Menudo is a famous hangover remedy.  Menudo is a very nice stewed tripe recipe.  I have had menudo in a few Las Vegas Mexican restaurants and taco stands.  There is something about the tripe flavor and hot peppers in Menudo that does cure a hangover!  Chicharron en salsa verde is not as well known in America, but in Mexican households and restaurants, it has quite a good reputation for curing the too much tequila blues.

     Chicharron en salsa verde is a quick stew that is made with pork cracklins.  Pork cracklins are a type of fried pork rind or pork skin.  Pork cracklins are more dense and less puffy than fried pork rind snacks.  Properly made cracklins are actually low in cholesterol and fat.  Some types of cracklins do carry quite a bit of grease that they were fried in.  Some cooks favor greasy crackilins, because they carry more flavor.

     Pork cracklins are not the only cracklins in this world.  Some chicharrones recipes are made from lamb skin or chicken skin.  Basically any animal skin that has a thin layer of fat under the skin can be used to make chicharrones.  The method of rendering fat for utilitarian lard is much older than the method of extracting oil from plants.  Chicharrones are the by-product of grease production, so chicharrones are one of mankind's oldest ancient snacks and recipe ingredients.

     Chicharones are used in many southern and Mexican recipes.  Fried pork rind snacks cannot be stewed, because they will become too soft in a stew.  Cracklins are dense enough to hold together in a stew.  The flavor of a chicharron stew is very rich with pork flavor.  Chicharron en salsa verde tastes like it has crispy bacon in it.

     Chicharron en salsa verde has a very unique spicy breakfast flavor.  There is no substituting canned or bottled salsa verde for freshly made salsa verde when making a chicharron recipe.  This recipe is best when the salsa verde is made fresh.
     As many readers have noticed in my past recipe articles, I have no electrical appliances in my home kitchen.  So far, every item in this food site has been prepared by hand the old fashioned way.  It is good to demonstrate handcrafted food, before introducing mechanical means of crafting food.  A food processor or a blending wand is good for pureeing the salsa verde, so if you have one, then put it to use!  I minced the salsa verde by hand the old fashioned way, using only a 10" chef knife.  Using two Chinese cleavers at one time is also a good way to puree food by hand.

     You can adjust the level of spicy chile pepper heat by adding more or less green serrano peppers.  If you leave the seeds in the serrano chiles like I did for the salsa verde in the pictures, then the salsa verde will be much spicier.  If you remove the seeds from the hot chile peppers, then the flavor will be milder.
     The salsa verde recipe that I wrote is enough for a couple of servings.  I made some extra salsa verde for a later recipe.  Salsa verde can be kept in a refrigerator for 7 days, like all perishable food.
     Salsa Verde:
     This recipe makes 2 to 3 portions of sauce!
     Place 1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatillos in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 coarsely chopped green serrano peppers.
     Add 1 coarsely chopped poblano pepper.
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 3/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 2 chopped garlic cloves.
     Cover the ingredients with 1" of extra water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the vegetables, till they become very tender.
     Allow the vegetables and liquid to completely cool before adding them to a blender or food processor, so the heat does not blow the lid off of the blender!
     Puree the vegetables.
     After the vegetables are pureed, return them to the sauce pot.
     Set the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced epazote.
     Add 2 pinches of Mexican oregano.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely minced cilantro.
     Simmer and reduce the puree, till it becomes a medium thick puree sauce consistency.
     Set the salsa verde aside.
     Chicharron En Salsa Verde:
     The stew only takes a few minutes to cook if the salsa verde is prepared ahead of time.  It is best to prepare the tortillas before the stew is started.
     There are a few options for the tortillas for this stew.  Many people like to add the corn tortillas to the stew just before serving, so the tortillas become soft in the stew at the table.  The tortillas should be cut into ribbon strips, if they are added to the stew.  This is a common way that chicharron en salsa verde is served for breakfast.  Especially if the stew is being served to hangover victims!  For a hangover victim, the less work and fuss while eating, the better the hangover cure will be.
     Steamed or grilled corn tortillas can also be served on the side.  Tortillas that are warmed on a grill can be cut into triangles and placed around the rim of the bowl.  This way, the corn tortillas can be used to pick up a scoop of stew or simply be stirred into the stew at the table.  The bowl of stew does look nice when lined with corn tortilla triangles.  This presentation looks like a bright morning sun.  Bright morning sunlight is not exactly what a hangover victim wants to see, but this sunny chicharron presentation will not blind a tequila hangover victim!
     Simply grill the corn tortillas on a dry cast iron griddle over medium heat, till the corn tortillas become warm.
     Cut the tortillas into triangle shapes.
     Cover the tortillas triangles with a dry towel to prevent drying.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of roasted lard or olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped onions.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Saute, till the onions turn clear in color.  (Do not brown the onions!)
     Add 1 1/3 cups of salsa verde.
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken broth or pork broth.
     Stir the salsa verde as it heats.
     When the salsa verde comes to a gentle boil, add a 1 1/3 cups of pork cracklins.
     Stir the cracklins into the sauce.
     Boil the cracklins in the salsa verde, till they just start to become tender.  (The cracklins only take a few minutes to become tender.)
     Ladle the chicharron en salsa verde into a shallow soup bowl.
     Place the tortilla triangles around the rim of the bowl.
     Garnish the chicharron en salsa verde with a sprinkle of thin sliced green onion.
     Chile peppers are the reason why this chicharron en salsa verde is a hangover cure.  Even mild chile peppers like green serranos and poblanos do have a sobering effect.
     Epazote is a Mexican herb that cures digestive problems and sore tummy aches from a hangover.  Epazote has a unique flavor of its own that is often compared to tarragon.  Never use too much epazote in a recipe.  A large amount of epazote can be toxic!  In small amounts, epazote is safe.
     This is a great tasting chicharron en salsa verde recipe with a sunny looking presentation!  Yum!

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