UPC’s Oven-Grilled Chicharron
Sometimes I forget how much my own kitchen is streamlined. I’ve got everything exactly where I want it, I know where it all is without even needing to stop and think. It’s a pleasure to have a space that is uniquely mine, optimized specifically for me and my own personal idiosyncrasies. And trust me, I do have some serious idiosyncracies! My wife often comes into the kitchen, in her own home mind you, and looks at where my things are and says “Why would you put a small olive oil container here on the counter, when you keep the large jug of olive oil in the fridge?” Some of the time I have no idea; and she’s occasionally made some really effective suggestions on how to improve the flow of my kitchen. More often than not, though, something is in it’s spot specifically because of the flow of my cooking. And the answers are never short. My wife is an absolute angel for sitting through countless explanations as to exactly why it is that I leave that item right there.
Well, I buy the large jug of olive oil so that I can buy the good stuff, and still save on cost. But olive oil spoils in only a few months at room temperature, so I keep the large jug in the fridge, where the shelf life is significantly extended. When you chill olive oil, it thickens to the point that it’s not really a liquid anymore, so in order to use it, I have to let it come up to room temperature. See, look.
I take out the jug from the fridge, take the cap off, and turn it upside down. Nothing comes out.
And notice how it looks more like butter than olive oil, right?
So I take a little bit at a time out of the fridge jug and keep it here, in the smaller glass container. This way, the olive oil that I’m using will always be liquid and ready for me to use it. And the large 2-gallon jug will last in the fridge for as long as we need it to.
“Ok, that makes sense.” See? She’s seriously an angel! “But why keep the small one here, in this exact spot.”
Oh, right. So, since we typically eat salad with all three of our daily meals, I like to keep it here so that I don’t have to reach for it when I’m ready to mix the salads. It’s within reach, out of the sunlight, and not in the way of anything else we do in the kitchen. Also, I don’t want it in the spice cupboard because I don’t typically use any dried spices when I’m making salads; so it’s out of place there.
“Got it. Ok!” That one made sense, once I’d explained it, and she agreed with the placement. It’s not always like that; but there’s rarely anything anywhere in the kitchen that isn’t thought about. Sometimes my wife prompts a re-thinking, but it’s always been considered.
But when I go to someone else’s kitchen, all of that is for naught. Not only is everything not where I would keep it; but I don’t even know where it is! See, each of my meal-flows are perfectly choreographed, with each piece of the meal existing where it needs to be. But in a someone else’s kitchen, using someone else’s tools, located in their flow-spots, I go from being graceful, smooth, and in my element to being clumsy, slow, and clearly uncomfortable. Cooking in someone else’s kitchen, for me, gave a new and poignant emphasis to “Foreign.” I was in a foreign country, using foreign tools, and working in a foreign space.
Some of the time, though, “Foreign” is a very good thing.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, Chicharron is a very popular food in Colombia. It’s the same cut of meat as bacon, but the skin is left on the meat. It is often served sliced into 1-inch thick chunks; where the slice goes down to the skin, but not all the way through. And it is always deep-fried.
“Quiero Chicharron Asado.” I said to my hosts. That translates to “I want baked Chicharron.” “You can’t have it – no one makes it like that.” They politely explained to me, like explaining to a 6-year-old that you can’t have ice cream before lunch. “Ok.” I said, recalling that there was Chicharron in the grocery store.
If I wanted it baked, and you can’t buy it that way, well, then, I’ll just have to make it!
UPC’s Chicharron Asado; Oven-Grilled Chicharron
- 2 lbs Chicharron (uncured slab bacon with skin on)
- 1 heel Garlic, peeled and sliced
- Spices: Sea Salt, Pepper
- 1 Yellow squash, sliced
- ¼ Pineapple, sliced
- 2 Carrots, sliced
- 10 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
- Pre-heat the oven to 120 C (about 250 F).
- While the oven heats up, slice the garlic.
- Line a baking pan with foil and put it on the bottom of the oven.
- Lay the Chicharron on the middle wrack of the oven.
- Carefully spread the garlic slices across the Chicharron, giving it fairly even coverage of about 1 slice of garlic per 2 inch section.
- Bake for 90 minutes.
- Prepare the vegetables.
- minutes before meal time, add the vegetables to the bottom pan.
- Stir the vegetables every 10 minutes.
- Continue to bake the Chicharron and vegetables for the remaining 30 minutes.
- Now serve and enjoy!
If you add anything other than salt, you should brush the Chicharron with some olive oil or coconut oil every 30 minutes.
As a note: There is no need to rotate the Chicharron; I baked it on the same side for the entire 2 hours.