The following has been excerpted from Unconventional—an online cookbook featuring recipes and stories from chefs Jesse Schenker (Recette, The Gander), Jehangir Mehta (Graffiti, Mehtaphor), and Francisco Migoya (Modernist Cuisine)—with permission.
This chocolate-covered chicharrón recipe comes courtesy of chef Migoya, who says, “I find that being unconventional is not just about putting weird flavors together. Anybody can do that. Putting normal flavors together in a different way, with a new method, can be unconventional.”
Chicharrón is one of the crunchiest foods that you’ll eat without breaking your teeth. And it stays crunchy for long periods of time, which is unusual for many ingredients. It has very little, if any, water activity. That is critical in my world of chocolate, as water is what kills everything. It makes things go soggy, and hastens rot! As a confectioner, the more I can control water in a finished dish, the better my product is going to be.
Here we are pairing chicharrón with the darkest chocolate that we have. Then we lightly dust with salt and chipotle powder, which adds spice and smokiness. So humble chicharrón is transformed by salt, smoke, and sweet elements to a treat that is more like a flavor roller coaster.
Chicharrón Enrobed in Dark Chocolate (with Sea Salt and Chipotle Powder)
- 1 pound dark chocolate
- 11 ounces chicharrón (fried pork rinds)
- Fleur de sel (Migoya likes fleur de sel de Guérande), for sprinkling
- Chipotle powder (or other chili powder), for sprinkling
1. Temper the Chocolate
First you will temper the chocolate, melting and then cooling it down to a specific temperature, which gives it snap and shine.
You will need one large metal bowl to melt the chocolate and a pot with a rim slightly smaller to hold a hot water bath. You will also need a slightly larger bowl to hold a cold water bath. Fill the larger bowl two-thirds full with cold tap water and set aside.
If using bars of chocolate, chop into ½-inch pieces. Place the chocolate in the large metal bowl. Bring 1 to 2 inches water to a simmer in the pot (you need just enough water so that it will not touch the bottom of the metal bowl when it is nestled in the pot). Remove the pot from the heat.
Place the bowl with the chocolate into the pot so the bottom of the bowl is over (not in) the water. Melt the chocolate while stirring with a rubber spatula. Monitor the chocolate with a digital thermometer to make sure it doesn’t get too hot—above 120°F is too hot for some brands of chocolate.
When the chocolate reaches 110 to 115°F, take it out of the hot water bath and place into the larger bowl filled with cold tap water. Cool the chocolate, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Make sure to keep water out of the chocolate.
Your goal is to cool the chocolate to 87 to 89°F. If it is taking longer than 10 minutes, you may need to replace the cooling water with fresh cold tap water. Once the chocolate is around 88°F, take the bowl out of the water and place on a kitchen towel on a flat surface.
2. Dip the Chicharrón
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the chicharrón and dip it in the chocolate. Repeat as necessary.
If it won’t fit completely submerged into the chocolate, hold it over the bowl and use a large spoon to ladle chocolate onto the chicharrón, coating it completely. Let excess chocolate drip off.
Place the dipped chicharrón on the parchment paper. Make sure every spot of the chicharrón is coated with chocolate to seal it in so it will keep longer. Dab some chocolate onto the corner you were holding while dipping. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle with fleur de sel and chipotle powder.
Allow the chocolate to fully harden at room temperature before serving. You can refrigerate the chicharrón if your kitchen is warmer than 75°F; but take it out after the chocolate has hardened. To serve, put out the entire slab and encourage your guests to pick at the pieces. Once you’ve cut into the chicharrón, I suggest you eat it all within a few days, or wrap well with plastic (don’t keep refrigerated) to keep the chicharrón from going stale.