Chicharrones de Queso
It’s a real show when Jimmy Shaw makes chicharrones behind the sleek counter at Loteria Grill. A blizzard of shredded Mexican manchego hits the hot griddle, then a pinch of cilantro, a sprinkle of onion, and seconds later you’re handed a fantastically lacy, golden crisp. Alas, you are not Jimmy Shaw, so here’s how to do it at home: make several smaller, less dramatic chicharrones instead of one huge one. Use a slightly lower temperature. And think of them like pancakes—the first will be ugly but good, and they’ll keep getting better.
Heat an electric griddle to 300°F, or heat a nonstick pan over a medium flame. In either case, the surface must be evenly hot. Carefully coat the surface with a thin film of canola or neutral vegetable oil.
Scatter a quarter of the cheese on griddle. The instant it hits, spread the cheese flat using a steel spatula, shaping it into a rough circle. This happens in about 15 or 20 seconds.
When the bottom crust begins to turn golden and the cheese is bubbling on top, toss on a little of cilantro and onion. When the chicharrón is done, the bottom will be brown and the top will release oil; immediately blot it with paper towels, so it will crisp as it cools. With a spatula in one hand and tongs in the other, gently lift the chicharrón off the griddle with the spatula, and with the tongs swirl it into a cone shape (alternatively, you can shape it by setting it over a rolling pin). The chicharrón will set almost instantly and be crispy. Repeat with the remaining cheese, to make 4 chicharrones.
Serve the chicharrones alone, breaking off pieces to nibble with beer or cocktails, or plate with guacamole and salsa for dipping. You can also go all out and serve them taco style: start with a dab of guacamole on a warm tortilla, pile on plenty of chicharrones, and top with a spoonful of tomatillo salsa.
* Mexican manchego is not to be confused with Spanish manchego. The latter is a firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese, whereas Mexican manchego is made from cow’s milk and is softer and milder.
DO-AHEAD: Chicharrones are best served promptly, but they may be prepared a few hours ahead and stored, covered, in a dry place.
By Jimmy Shaw, Loteria Grill, Los Angeles