This isn't your grandmother's Christmas pudding (unless she's Sardinian, where they use goat blood instead of pig blood as a thickening agent). Think warming holiday spices highlighted by the minerality of blood and smoke from the chocolate. One taste and you'll see it's pure deliciousness with just a hint of mystery.
Who said cracklins had to be a savory snack? I like to dust cracklins with confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder and ground fennel seeds, a flavor combination that reminds me of the pizza fritta (fried dough) my grandmother Rosalie used to make.
a spice grinder; cheesecloth; a bench scraper; serrated scissors or a serrated pasta wheel; a dehydrator or oven with a pilot light and fan; a candy thermometer; a stick blender
Preheat a grill over medium-high heat.
Place the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to bloom; set aside until ready to add to the mixture, about 20 minutes. Grill the cinnamon stick until it starts to unroll and has a nice flavor of smoke, a minute or two; this adds so much depth to the dish.
In a mixing bowl set over a simmering double boiler, combine the cream, milk, granulated sugar, nutmeg, salt, pepper, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook, until everything is starting to become warm, then add the pork blood. Bring the mixture to 145 degrees F; it will start to thicken at this point. Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl, then whisk in a thin stream of the hot milk mixture until it's loose, about the texture of cream. Remove from the heat and whisk the yolk mixture back into the bowl of hot milk and let cool to 140 degrees F.
Meanwhile, set up an ice bath and set aside.
Add the chocolate to a large metal bowl that will rest on top of the ice bath later. Strain the blood-milk mixture through a chinois or fine mesh sieve over the chocolate, discarding the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Drain the gelatin, then squeeze it dry and add to the chocolate bowl. Blend the mixture with a stick blender until smooth and all the chocolate is dissolved. Immediately place the metal bowl on the ice bath and stir to cool down quickly. Cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing gently onto the surface of the pudding and gently smoothing it, then chill in the refrigerator until set, about 3 hours.
Spoon a large scoop, or quenelle, of the pudding onto each plate. Top each plate with some Chichachurros and serve.
Sweet Cracklins Chichachurros:
Yield:12 to 16 pieces
Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Remove to a bowl and let cool. Grind finely, then set aside.
Sprinkle the pig skin liberally on both sides with the salt and granulated sugar, then lay it in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. In a cheesecloth sachet, wrap the bay leaves, vanilla beans and seeds and lemon being sure to tie it tightly, and place it in the pan. Add the white wine. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the skin is tender, about 2 hours. (Check its doneness by tearing the skin with your hands; it should have just the slightest bit of resistance.)
Lay the skin out in a single layer on parchment-lined sheet trays to cool in the fridge until very firm, about 2 hours. Using a bench scraper, remove all the fat from the bottom of the skin. Score the skin, then cut into strips about as long and as thick as a pencil using a serrated pair of scissors or a pasta wheel with serrations. Dehydrate, either in a dehydrator or in the oven with just the pilot light on and the fan running, until dry and brittle, 24 to 36 hours. (At this point, the skin may be stored for weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, with a silica gel pack if available.)
Stir together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder and ground fennel in a bowl.
Preheat a deep-fryer or a large pot with several inches of oil to 375 degrees F.
Fry a few pieces of skin at a time, just until puffed. (Be sure not to let them get golden brown, as pure white is what you're aiming for.) Remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels. To finish, dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture.
You can fry the chichachurros ahead and store at room temperature in an airtight container for a few weeks.