3 of a Kind: Chicharrones Beyond Pork
3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.
There’s some kind of magic that happens when pork fries into crisp, puffy bits of pure deliciousness. Call them pork rinds, cracklings or chicharrones — it’s all good. But chefs are taking it one step further, transforming chicken, fish skin and even beef tendon to make other kinds of crunchy chicharrones.
Crispy Chicken Skins with Smoked Honey at Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas
Fried chicken was a family staple for Carson Kitchen owner and co-founder Cory Harwell during his childhood in the South, with his grandmother making the comforting dish every Sunday. But there was one part of the bird in particular that the young Harwell just couldn’t resist. He used to get in trouble for sneaking into the kitchen and stealing the skin off the fried chicken before it was even served.
“I would literally leave a piece of chicken sitting there on the platter with no skin on it!” Harwell recalls. “When I built Carson Kitchen, I wanted to bring that one special thing to our menu.” Finding the right technique took some time and about 40 pounds of experimentation. The skins are served with a little smoked honey as another nod to Harwell’s deep Southern roots. The unbeatable combination makes for a dish that has been in the restaurant’s top-five items sold since day one.
Salmon Ceviche with Salmon Chicharrones at Tico, Washington, D.C.
The raw and the cooked come together in this colorful fish-forward creation. Says Chef George Rodrigues, “When I’m thinking about a new dish, I always like to incorporate a textured garnish.” Instead of discarding the salmon skin, he transformed it into chicharrones by applying the same technique he uses to make a more traditional pork-skin version. “It is our job as chefs to utilize as much of the animal as possible,” Rodrigues explains. “I was able to play with taste and texture while also minimizing waste.”
Beef Tendon Chicharrones at Mistral, Princeton, N.J.
Chef Ben Nerenhausen’s elevated take on chicarrones comes served with beet tartare, bone marrow cream, mustard and dill. The form of the dish may be new, but the flavors are classic. “I just liked the similarity of color, texture and sound that beets and beef had to one another,” Nerenhausen explains.
Though the tartare is beet-centric, the integration of the tendons and bone marrow cream adds a beefy element to the dish. “I think that helped to give the illusion of having a real beef tartare without there being any actual raw beef on the plate,” Nerenhausen says.
Photos courtesy of Jeff Ragazzo, Tico and Mistral