Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chicharrones are The New Cumbia


These crispity clouds fit Juan Data's description of neocumbia

4505 chicharrones are spectacular. There are many varieties of Chicharrones throughout Latin America. My Dominican family {inlaws} makes chicharrones a different way. For them Chicharrones is just fried chicken. It is very tasty. Unlike the Mexican chicharrones I have eaten, the Dominican version is best eaten right out of the fryer. At La Palma, I love the chicharrones con grasa, which are best when they are still warm. They have some of the pork meat still on them and a bunch of the fat, which stays moist and flavorful. Some folks like the ones served at La Espiga de Oro, down the street. Some call these versions "regular". Are 4505 Chicharrones "regular ass" chicharrones? traditional chicharrones? I don't think they are supposed to be. Are they bad? No way. Are they fancy. Maybe. They may seem to be sold at hoity toity gringo places, maybe they are. But if places like Ritual Coffee and Kitchenette are hoity toity, then I'm cool with hoity toity. Ritual Coffee takes coffee making seriously, grinds it's own beans in house and honors the art of small batch French press brewing. Kitchenette is a green business and makes everything from scratch, from kim chee to hand pulled mozzarella to pastrami to a wide variety of in house pickles. Basically, a few very passionate food businesses sell 4505 chicharrones. They are not, however, sold at El Trebol on 22nd and Capp, nor are they sold at El Tin Tan on 16th street, two of my favorite non gringo locations in the Mission. They are not sold any any authentic Mexican place.

Underground/ D.I.Y. Ethics: Check - Ryan Farr has hustled his Zilladogs and other treats on the streets and at the Ferry Building for a while, after many years of working in kitchens. He was the chef at Orsen and Fith Floor before starting his own business. You can get your Turduckin from him too.

I studied the art of chicharrones in the begining of this year when I was working at Nopalito. Research, reading, you tube watchin', and trial and error. At the time, the Nopalito chicharrones were dense and tooth breaking. I told the chef, who is a very talented chef from Mexico who has worked in great restaurants in SF, that our chicharrones were too hard. He told me that's how they are supposed to be. Maybe so, but none of the chicharrones I buy in the Mission are rock hard like that. I asked him If I could make a batch, but he liked to be the only person to make chicharrones {among other things} He would cut the pork rind into thin strips and then blanch in water two times, then they were fried in pork lard. I told the chef about the 4505 chicharrones and said that they were fried in rice oil. We used rice oil to fry the tortillas, not the chicharrones. Only Gringo chicharrones are fried in rice oil. I wonder if they use corn or veg oil on 24th street for chicharrones, or just lard? As weeks passed, the Nopalito chicharrones became lighter and lighter. I think it was because they were blanched longer and fried slower in shorter bursts, being dropped into the fry lard and lifting out, up and down. The chef said he had been watching you tube videos and remembered seeing it done that way in Mexico. They started to get better and better and on the days when they turned out extra special we would serve them on top of a bowl of guacamole. Then one day someone came in and dropped off a bag of Chicharrones from 4505 Meats for the kitchen to taste. No one commented. Not sure if this was the first time the chef tried them. I heard the "Gringo chicharrones" are fried in rice oil.

When people say "That's way overpriced" it troubles me. What they should be saying is "that other food is way underpriced" or "that other food was produced by underpaying human beings" or "that other food was made in an irresponsible way that is harmful to the earth and human beings"....

If the 4505 chicharrones they got from Ritual were "Soggy crispy" it may be because they were not fresh. Unlike traditional chicharrones, the 4505 chicharrones are very delicate. When they are done well, the "real deal" chicharrones are tough and durable, while at the same time remaining light and airy.

I understand and support the need to preserve authenticity of products and I believe we should respect the origin and the roots of traditional dishes and ingredients. San Francisco is home to many cultures and we all borrow aspects of culture from each other. As a gringo who cooks Mexican food and food from other parts of the world, I am excited to use flavors and techniques that I have learned from other cultures to create my own cuisine. But It's important to know and respect the roots. You can't beat crushing a bag of chicharrones before opening the plastic and diving in... now that's straight gangsta.

"Gabacho" is used a lot more than "gringo" in San Francisco.

Some Soul Cocina Gabacho Tamales

Join in on a Soul Cocina Indian Feast this Monday at LOCALIZE

Wholesome Bakery will be at OUTSIDE IN
Toasty Melts will be at OUTSIDE IN on Saturday


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