Roast Pork with Crackling II
When I posted my Spicy Crackling Pork Appetizer recipe not long ago, a fellow blogger followed up with comments which linked me to one of her own posts entitled: Roast Pork: Two Homemade Recipes. This very interesting article provided two different, but somewhat similar methods for achieving the lovely puffed, crispy skin on roast pork that I have always known as ‘crackling’. I was also interested to see that both methods incorporated an Asian technique for adding flavor to the meat as well.
Anyway, I was quite intrigued and, when I came across a pork roast with a good thick skin, I decided to take a look at the techniques. Although I began the process with some steps I outlined in my basic method for making crackling outlined in my earlier Roast Pork with Crackling post, I then followed up with something of an amalgam of the two processes outlined in my friend’s post…
I purchased a whole roast but, as I was following an Asian style method, I used only the skin and left just a couple of inches of meat attached (the rest of the meat was used for a curry). I scored the skin but, rather than do it in very narrow strips, I cut it into fairly large square pieces which basically marked out the way I intended to cut the piece for later service.
As in my earlier Roast Pork with Crackling post, I poured a few cups of boiling water over the skin to tighten it, and then rubbed it liberally with coarse salt. Here you can see my ‘roast’ after that process.
The following step was one that I have not heard of before but both recipes supplied by my friend recommended rubbing the meat (not the skin) with a powdered chicken bouillon for added flavor. They specified a particular brand called 四季雞粉 but, unfortunately I do not have access to it. I gather that this brand contains MSG and so I selected a local variety that also does as well.
Pork skin must be dried in order to get good crackling. One of the methods supplied by my friend directs you to let the meat sit in the refrigerator overnight, while the other advocates 3 full days. I went ‘up the middle’ and allowed mine to sit, uncovered, for two days. As you can see above, the skin is indeed nicely dried out.
One of the methods also suggested wrapping the meat, but not the skin, with foil before roasting and, given that my cut here is not very thick, I thought this was a good idea.
The two methods allow a choice when it comes to the actual roasting: 30 minutes at 450 degrees or 50 to 55 minutes at 400 degrees. In the latter case, it is suggested that you may have to put the skin under the broiler briefly in order to ‘puff’ the skin for the final crispiness.
Based on past experience, I find that a higher heat, at least initially, is preferable and so I chose a 450 degree oven. After twenty minutes, their seemed to be only just a little bit of bubbling of the skin and so I ended up leaving the cut beyond the 30 minutes suggested and ended up with a total of 55 minutes cooking time. Thankfully, using the broiler (which is fraught with difficulty) was unnecessary and the result was, as you can see, pretty darn satisfactory. There was one very tiny patch where the skin did not become crisp, but I believe that was because the small area in question represented a small depression in the skin surface with the result that the cooking juices pooled there. Obviously, that is a pretty simple thing to watch out for in future.
After allowing the cut to cool a little on the counter-top I cut it into sections and tasted one piece straight away. The chicken powder rub really did make a nice difference but the skin was the prize. I served most of the rest in small dishes with a little Garlic Oil, Mirin and soy sauce, and my wife and I enjoyed one of the nicest little snacks we’ve had for ages. I’ll be doing this again!