Kitchen Improv: Pork Rinds for the Thrifty-Minded
Once I had the skin cleaned, I threw it on a perforated pan and put it in the oven at its lowest setting (if I crack the door, I can keep it at around 150f) until it was thoroughly dehydrated.
Nicholas L. Hall Skin, post-scraping, ready for the "dehydrator."
I stashed it in a plastic container with a folded paper towel to absorb any residual moisture. A couple of days later, I broke it into smallish pieces, heated a pot of oil to around 350 (I couldn't find my candy thermometer, so I guessed a bit on temp, adjusting as I fried), and tossed in the dried pork skin. The first few, skinny little odds and ends, fizzled and burned, refusing to puff up.
I had much better luck with the larger pieces, and the ones where I'd done a better job of scraping the skin clean. They puffed up nicely, with a pleasingly airy crispness and a nice porky flavor with just a hint of smoke, a nod to their smoked hock origin. I tossed these simply with a bit of salt and put them on the counter, where my kids ate them faster than I could fry them up. Of course, with just the one hock, the whole affair was over in seconds, with the kids clamoring for more.
Nicholas L. Hall Dehydrated hock skin, ready for the fryer.
I made another pot of beans last night. When I cleaned up after dinner, I pulled the skin off the hock and stashed it in a zippered bag in the freezer. Once I hoard a decent quantity, I'm going to make a larger batch of pork rinds, playing around with various post-fry flavorings. I'm leaning toward togarashi, and maybe one with dehydrated gazpacho. Either way, it's definitely going to become a part of my bean cooking process, and one I can't believe I didn't light on sooner. Don't make my same mistake.