Chicharron in the Tehuitztla market.
Like many American women I used to be obsessed with my weight. When I moved to Mexico I lost ten pounds in six months. My diet changed from sushi, organic everything, lean meats, and mountains of salad, to beans, tortillas, sweet rolls, and caldos and moles full of lard.
My lifestyle went from a walk every day, hours on my feet waiting tables and frequent sessions of Latin dance, to laying in bed reading, sitting around the table bullshitting while eating meals of multiple carbs, and cursory gardening attempts.
I’ve effortlessly kept these ten pounds off for eight years. Though my lifestyle now is healthier that when I first arrived in Mexico, I resumed the walks and eat more vegetables, I’m not as active as I was in Chicago. When I travel to the states for a month I usually gain five pounds, and when I return to Mexico my body dutifully drops it, effortlessly, with no modification of my regular diet of beans, tortillas, Chiliquiles, cheese, eggs, whole milk and…Chicharron.
Though this seems inexplicable, the explanation is simple– I used to eat too much. Even the “healthiest” food will make you fat if you eat more than you need. Now I have no convenience food, I can’t order carry out, we seldom dine out, and I don’t have snacks, no chips, crackers, or baby carrots with “light” ranch dressing. I eat two meals a day, and it’s plenty. I eat anything I want, I never think of fat or calories; and my weight is perfect for my age and frame. This is not health or dieting advice, just a testimony.
One thing I love to eat, that would have sent me into an anxiety attack in my previous life, is chicharron. If you’re an omnivore and a bacon lover chicharron is for you.
How to buy it: If your local Latin grocery has a large meat section, as they often do, they probably make their own chicharron. Ask for a taste. I don’t recommend the prepackage product, though Dianna Kennedy says there are good ones I couldn’t tell you the brands, and often it is not pig skin, but deep fried wheat, so if you want to investigate read the package carefully. Chicharron should be absolutely crispy and have no aluminum, or lardy flavor. It should taste salty(though there is unsalted chicharron) and mildly meaty . It comes without or without meat. The belly is scored and cubes of meat or fat left attached, or it is cleaned to a thin sheet of skin only. Both are delicious. If it is rendered properly it is almost pure protein.
The classic preparation is chicharron in salsa verde or chilito, though it’s not my favorite because the chicharron gets mushy and takes on a menudo (tripey) flavor. And I wonder, why lose the crunch? My solution is to make it in the traditional way for Felipe, and I eat salsa verde, beans and tortillas with a side of Chicharron.
salsa verde de molcajete
Salsa Verde (the quick version)
1 pd. tomatillos
1 clove garlic
½ a medium onion
½ cup chopped cilantro
Serrano chili to taste, I usually use four
1-2 Tbles Vegetable oil or lard
Clean the tomatillos of their husks and sticky coating. Just cover in water and bring to a boil. Cook until they turn a grey green and are soft to the touch, but not breaking up. Blend them with the rest of the ingredients to the texture you prefer, I like mine a little chunky.
Heat the oil to medium high and fry the salsa for about three minutes. Add serving, or bite sized pieces of chicharron. Be careful when salting the salsa because the chicharron will release a lot of salt into it. Serve with tortillas and some stiff refried beans.