Chicharrón (or chicharrones) is one of those ubiquitous Latin American foods; each country has its own version. Chicharrones originated in Andalucía, Spain, and thus are eaten in most Spanish-speaking countries; though many regional names and adaptations exist. Chicharrones are traditionally crispy fried cuts of pork; but meats and condiments vary by country.
In Peru, chicharrón is meat that has been boiled until the liquid evaporates and most of the fat renders out, at which point the meat fries in its own fat (basically a confit). Because of the fat content, the meat is almost always pork; but it can be made with beef, chicken or even fish (with some cooking modifications). The pork is usually boneless picnic shoulder or pork butt, cut into large chunks; but sometimes (in pricier eateries) chicharrones are made with pork ribs.
Frequently, chicharrones are made the previous night, then enjoyed for breakfast. Chicharrones can also be eaten as an appetizer or snack, and are traditionally accompanied by fried sweet potato and salsa criolla. When traveling between the coastal beaches and Lima proper, savvy tourists stop at the town of Lurin, where street vendors and restaurants there are famous for their huge chicharrón sandwiches – thick rolls stuffed with pork, sweet potato and salsa criolla.
Here, I’ve made chicharrones with baby back ribs – it’s a convenient way to eat them, plus the bones add a rich flavor to the meat. Cueritos (lightly-fried pork rinds, eaten as a snack) are marinated in vinegar. My version combines the cueritos marinade with the confit technique – with very successful results, I think.
Water As needed to cover (about 3 quarts)
Kosher salt 1 Tbsp.
Black pepper 1 Tbsp.
Apple cider vinegar 1 Tbsp.
Cumin 1 Tbsp.
Extra virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp.
Garlic cloves, smashed 2 each
- Combine salt, pepper, cumin, salt, garlic and vinegar to create a rub.
- Apply rub to ribs; marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Place ribs in a heavy-bottomed pot; fill with just enough water to cover. Add salt.
- Bring to a boil; then simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add more water, if necessary.
- Remove cover; allow water to evaporate.
- Pork will begin to begin to fry in its own fat. Fry until ribs are crispy on both sides.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Serve with fried sweet potato rounds and salsa criollo.
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Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.