Candied Pork Chicharrones and Ice Cream, A Recipe

Today is National Eat What You Want Day — when humans concerned about their waistlines must schedule a day to cheat on their diets. I would point out the humor in this prearranged lapse in discipline — since the entire point of discipline is to be disciplined — but I won’t. So eat what you want. I certainly do. Though, you are bound by the confines of law and order.

It is also the publication date of my journal, such as it is. I thought I would celebrate by doing something different.

If you have been following my work, or if you are a new reader, it will become clear that I never eat the skin. I am not entirely happy with the idea of eating a fried meat-sack, since that is really the best preparation of the integument. Neither do I much go in for sweets, but I will never be accused of being myopic. I have decided to branch out, to expand my horizons.

And so, I offer up this treat, a savory dessert.

Tools:

  • Baking pan with inset wire rack
  • Sharp knife
  • Dredging bowl
  • Mixing bowl
  • Two medium saucepans
  • Mixer (Hand held or standing, whisk or electric)
  • Frying pan
  • Ice cream making kit for a KitchenAid standing mixer (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs pork back fat with skin (As may be obvious, I do not use pork. Instead I choose a specimen with a particularly high body fat index, and a fairly wide torso. I have adjusted the recipe to fit your tastes, however,  this ingredient may be difficult for you to find in a normal grocery store. If you go up to the butchery counter and ask them if they have any sitting around, you will probably be in luck. Asian grocers, specialty butchers, and even farm-to-table place may have it.)
  • Brown sugar
  • White sugar
  • Cinnamon (You may use pre-ground spices, for expediency, but fresh is best)
  • Cardamom
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Chocolate ice cream (I will not include the instructions for making your own ice cream. If you have the standing mixer and the attachment, it comes with a recipe guide. Simply make up a batch of your favorite ice cream and freeze over night.)
  • 1 package raspberries
  • Chambord (Raspberry liqueur. Optional, but a very good option)

Instructions:

  1. Make your ice cream the night before. If not making your own, skip this step and purchase a dark chocolate, organic variety. We want to keep the savory-sweet profile, so less sugar is better.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200.
  3. Cut your pork into thin strips, about two inches wide, and carefully remove the subcutaneous fat. The best way is to lay the pork skin-side down, and resting the knife flat, slide it across the strip away from yourself, as if scraping or shaving. Remove as much fat as you can, as it will interfere with the crispiness of the skin. Set fat aside.
  4. Cut the skin strips into 2-3 inch segments. Lay these on top of the baking rack, and put into the oven. The low temperature will dry out the skin over the course of the next few hours. When the skin is completely dried out, Remove and set aside to cool completely.
  5. Take the fat you have set aside and render in your frying pan by cooking at a low temp for a couple hours, while your skin is drying out. (I mean the pork skin of course. If your skin is drying out, please indulge in a moment of moisturizing at this time.)
  6. In  medium saucepan, combine raspberries, 1 cup white sugar, and 1/2 cup Chambord (Or juice or water) and allow to cook down to a syrup. Strain the seeds from this when it is liquefied, and set aside.
  7. When the skin is close to being fully cooled, combine 2 cups brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamon to taste in your dredging bowl, with just a pinch of sea salt.
  8. Heat your rendered fat or lard in your pan until it is perfect frying temperature, and spits a bit.
  9. Using tongs, drop the skin pieces into the oil and fry until they puff up and get crispy. Immediately remove, give a cautious shake, and then dredge in the sugar spice mixture. Set aside to cool.
  10. Whip your cream until it is perfect whipped cream texture, adding a sprinkle of sugar here and sea salt there. We want this whipped cream to be savory, not sweet, so only add the sugar to bring out the cream, not to mask it. It should taste something like salted butter.
  11. In a small saucepan, heat one cup of white sugar and 1 teaspoon of sea salt on medium heat, stirring constantly. The sugar should begin to melt and turn a light golden brown. When it is completely liquefied, it is finished. Remove immediately or it will harden.

To serve, scoop a small amount of the ice cream into a bowl or cup, add a generous stripe of raspberry sauce. Another scoop of ice cream. A dollop of your savory whipped topping. Drizzle all over with salted caramel. Stack the chicharrones atop like a cookie, or serve in a separate dish for dipping.

If you are so inclined, you may now find my published diary, entitled The Creature’s Cookbook, online, or via the Tapas Media app. I do hope you will enjoy.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 1 – Biology

Long ago, when I began recording my existence for all to see, I made a promise that I would answer your questions as they came to me. While I have done some justice within the body of my soon-to-be-published chronicle, there are a few issues that somehow never get raised in casual discourse. Therefore, allow me, gentle reader, to fulfill my vow.

I have grouped the questions into three distinct types: Biological, Historical, and Culinary. Each category will be answered in a separate post. If your personal question fits one of these three categories, feel free to scroll right to it. If your curiosity has gone unsatisfied, place your query in a comment…or wait and see if it eventually appears in the forthcoming texts pertaining to my humble life.

Biological

Can you describe your anatomy in depth?

This question, or some variation to this effect, has been asked a dozen times by all sorts — from scientists and doctors to cryptozoology hobbyists and armchair UFOlogists — and while I do touch upon it regularly, I shall answer it again as it is of such critical importance. It may be that you have just found this page, or scanned my work and come searching. Perhaps you know nothing of my species, and this I will amend. For your safety, of course.

I have made the argument that all myths of monster, ghost, and foul thing more than likely spring from encounters with our breed in the darkness, and I do firmly believe it. I have been the world over and never encountered anything worse than me — with my senses, I should have seen Bigfoot, if they do indeed exist. My species are naturally ugly, can seem to shape-shift, make odd sounds, exhibit malevolence, and depending upon what clothing we wear, I imagine it would be easy to paint us bird-creatures or swamp men.

Humans are not very good witnesses when encountering horrible or terrifying events, regardless.

We are average size, though you must remember, that the average has risen. In ancient times, we were considered somewhat tall. We are thin, wiry, with hard, lean muscle and little body fat. Our skin is rather pale, and sometimes grayish in hue. Our hands are ever so slightly odd — with long fingers snubbed at the ends, capped off with claws that retract if desired. The nail beds are not a healthy human pink, but plum-colored with dark edges. Our feet are equally bizarre, lower arches, more flexible toes, hooked with thick talons that make the climbing of trees a simple thing and the wearing of shoes a most distressing event involving a once-monthly session with a sanding tool. We have no hair, not a single follicle; however, atop our head is a glossy mass of filaments with a life of their own. My best guess, for I have never elected to dissever one and examine it, is that they are some sort of sensory organ. They move in reply to stimulus, and perhaps in some way, they are to blame for many of my seemingly supernatural talents.

I have a disaffinity for electronic devices. That is to say, while I love them and their utility, they despise me. I think that my nerves are not well-insulated, and so my natural field interferes with them. I cannot wear a watch without it dying. I can explode a lightbulb merely by proximity. I can sense devices, even wiring in walls, and sometimes can even perform tricks at will.

I can detect small sounds at great distance and sort through these noises to find but one single note. I can sense things, like pressure changes, the presence of my relatives, and most critically, when I am being watched. I can see in the dark and dilate my pupils quite large on demand.

We are perhaps several times stronger than an able-bodied man, faster than any human in small bursts, and due to the construction of our joints, quite flexible and lithe. We are acrobats, but our endurance is poor. We lack stamina. We expend calories more quickly, eating several times what you do in a day.

An addendum to this question is the notion of phylogeny: what family do we occupy? Without hair, umbilical attachments, or mammary glands, it is a certainty we are not mammals. I know that shallow cuts and injuries do not bleed, but deep gashes ooze a pinkish liquid. Otherwise, the skin knits closed with rapidity. I know that while I prefer warmth, the extremes of cold do little more than make me sluggish and I do not sweat. I can hold my breath for long periods of time, almost fifteen minutes, but must have oxygen eventually. My teeth fall out of my head and grow back easily, and so I am tempted to believe they are not like your teeth. I have yet to find any mind-altering substance that affects me. I do not recall ever having a fever, a cold, a flu, or any other illness. I have no allergies, no aversions, no weaknesses of any kind.

But we are intelligent, and that is dangerous.

I have learned recently certain other facts about our species, but that is best left to the book, if you’ll pardon my adherence to the rules of publishing.

Do you monsters go to the bathroom?/ Do you have sex?

I chose to make this a separate question because, while it has to do with our physical form, it requires its own tactful reply that does away with vulgarity.

I have spent a great deal of time…well, for lack of a more dignified phrase…dissecting humans. Your nether regions are quite complicated, and mating seems to be a strange horizontal dance that borders on two wriggling snakes attempting to thumb wrestle. My breed have no such complications. We have more in common with dolphins or neutered cats. We expel waste. That’s it.

You want to know how we mate. If not by behaving like two marbles attempting to connect at a specific point, while utterly failing each time, then how? I still have yet to do it, and so cannot give specifics. But really, would you want them if I could? Given what you know of how I eat…perhaps we should leave that to your imagination.

Do you get indigestion or food poisoning?

Certain botanicals cause me stomach issues, but never anything debilitating. Before you ask, we can vomit. Though it is something we do when we get food lodged somewhere it doesn’t belong. As for food poisoning, I really don’t know. I think, perhaps, like a dog, I am able to consume carrion. I have limits, in that I can smell when things are “off”. Why would I eat beyond that point?

So if you’ve been wondering why I cook at all, if I am immune to infection, that is your answer. My biology allows me to smell every nuance, taste every spice. I cannot help it. Cooking is my drug, my ecstacy, my passionate  love.

Have you ever lost a limb?

No. But if I fancied being one limb short, I would try that experiment, simply to see if, like a nematode, we could sprout a new one. Perhaps one day, I will cross paths with a member of my species I find odious enough to tie down. If that eventuality arises, I promise to execute an exhaustive study and report my findings.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on my history.

Tapas and Sushi

My literary agent  is a very energetic person. So much so, that I sometimes feel that she must be part cocoa bean. I have to fight the urge to siphon off a dram for recreational use. She bounces when she walks. Her face does not simply form expressions, it is possessed by them. She gushes about my work, such that I sometimes feel guilty for not reiterating how much gushing actually goes into my work.

Today she has enthusiastically arranged for me to make the acquaintance of my publisher, which I suppose is a good thing. You scoff, because to you that is obvious. Of course it is a good idea to get to know the tiny human female who will be responsible for dissembling your treatise to the world! But no — to me, it is not so obvious, gentle reader.

There is but one thing that unnerves me, and that is meeting new people. I can never be certain how they will see me, and this case is even less predictable. Because, you see, she has read my autobiography. I will encounter not just the woman, but her beliefs. Thus, I am conflicted as I ready myself for the encounter.

Do I dress to appear more or less human? Male or female? Do I leave off the false eyelashes and eyebrows and let the chips fall where they may? What sort of person is she, and how will she respond — fascination or horror?

My agent never seems to notice. She takes the facial discrepancies in stride and thinks this whole “persona” business is a clever marketing ploy. Bless her, she is a PR person.

I present myself promptly at the sushi restaurant, but find that I am already late. This is unfortunate. They will have strategized; Laurie will have warned our guest that I am — what is the phrase she uses? — eccentric. Now Ms. Horsley will have expectations, and every word from my mouth will be scrutinized.

I look at the row of men standing behind the bar, slicing fish paper thin with deft hands, and wish I could just put on an apron and busy myself with that mundane task.

Alas.

Laurie’s face transforms into her massive smile as she spots me lurking. She waves me over and before I can extrapolate the dynamics, I am shaking hands with the Vice President of Content for Tapas Media. She is polite, but focused, and her gaze lingers a bit longer on my face than is comfortable. No doubt she is looking for the adhesive that keeps my eyebrows in place.

“I ordered tea!” Laurie announces. I toast her tactfully, wondering if she really requires any additional spring in her step.

Adrienne slides a menu across to me. “I know you’re the food expert here. Do you want to just order for us, and we can share?”

She has a nefarious twinkle in her eye that tells me she is challenging me to remove my teeth. The joke is on her. Sushi is more than soft enough to accommodate my falsies.

“As you wish. Any dietary restrictions? Or shall I have free reign?”

Adrienne presses her lips down on a grin. Laurie performs a small wiggle in my periphery — her full-body indication that they are indeed in each other’s confidence.

“See? Consistent! He’s like Lestat, when he decided to become a rock star.”

The comparison squeezes a grunt from me. I despise the v-word. Any linkage between that ridiculous, overworked myth and my species is a dangerous and obnoxious piece of sentimentality in which humanity should never indulge. Real monsters are not former humans, they do not mourn the loss of the divine, they do not languish in darkness, they do not stop at drinking blood. They are most certainly not sexy.

How undignified.

“Laurie, please—”

“Right, sorry! No vampires.”

I return to my menu as she begins brain-typhooning, similar to brainstorming, but because she is involved, it will include stream-of-consciousness emails, pictures, status updates, and several sentences uttered so emphatically I lose myself in the upheaval.

My thoughts fuzz over as I let my nose meander to the sushi bar. I was going to order us some salmon, but it does not smell as fresh as the tuna. Perhaps some scallops? Something spicy, I think.

Sashimi truly is an art, as the fish must be caught in a certain way, so that the meat is not tainted by the fear. I have been asked if I have ever eaten human raw. Of course, I have. Cooking is merely the best way to preserve something against the elements, or imbue it with spices. The flavor profile of mankind, however, does not lend itself well to Japanese seafood preparation. And that has nothing to do with the killing method.

Fight or flight only appears to enhance…

“This Wednesday is National Eat What You Want Day, so we’re going to take advantage of it. We will launch the book as Dark Comedy.”

My attention snaps back to the woman across from me. “This Wednesday? How can this be accomplished so quickly?”

A small correction, gentle reader: more unnerving than meeting new people, is the idea of being presented as a main dish for all to see, a suckling pig for the carving, without time to take stock and prepare myself mentally. I haven’t liquidated any of my assets or scouted new territory if this publishing business goes awry.

“It’s perfect for Dark Comedy!” Laurie beams. “And the holiday! Oh my god! If we don’t launch then…”

Also bothersome is the idea that anyone might find me funny. I have said, upon many occasions, that if any individual on this earth is more entitled to gallows humor, I haven’t met them, but the body of the work is not meant to be comedic. It has a deep and meaningful purpose. A sagacious, but self-defeating one, it would seem.

“Right?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge my antiquity and clarify.” I blink at the women, all smiles. “It’s not going to be a physical volume?”

Laurie flaps. “Tapas is a website and an app. Tell him, Adrienne.”

“It’s all in the name! We distribute content in bite-sized portions, five minute reading sessions. People can try a free sample, and then decide to keep going, if they get a taste for the story! The Cookbook is perfect! It’s exactly the type of storytelling we’re trying to inspire!”

She shows me her phone; metaphysical covers scroll by.

The idea sinks in, finally. I lean back with a sense of déjà vu. That was how it all began, you see — publishing, I mean. But most people were illiterate and typesetting was a sticky thing. Because of this, the first publications were small: folios, pamphlets, monograms. Then education caught, and the inexpensive newspaper was born. Such is your thirst for knowledge that street vendors stopped selling water and began hocking news.

“From penny dreadfuls to Bitcoin offal.”

It is charming, this cycling of fashion, but troubling too. Genre fiction began in the periodicals of old: Dickens, Dumas, Melville, Burroughs. And here sits my humble, but very factual diary, about to be reworked into the fast food of literacy. It concerns me, because after all, I came out of hiding in an effort to cure your dependency upon the candy of artistic conceit.

The waitress approaches and helpfully points out the nigiri and special rolls. I order, but in the back of my mind, I am thinking about meals cut into morsels, plots disassembled. If absorbed in small pieces, at intervals, it could be beneficial, like a vaccine. After all, you would have time between entries to snap back to reality, to check your email, play Angry Birds, wonder if this weird story about a man-eating ghoul living in your neighborhood could be true. Perhaps you would even have an odd moment to contemplate a new home security system.

“People can read it as they travel to and from work, or binge it all at once,” she continues.

“Binging is unhealthy,” I mutter, too quietly, I fear. I wonder if they realize they are proving my hypothesis as they speak of fiction in gastronomical metaphor.

That would be too easy, I suppose. No rest for the wicked.

“Our hope is that eventually authors will embrace the format like you have, and just write for it.”

Dare I point out the premise of my work, yet again? I have tried with Laurie, but the intrepid entrepreneur sees only possibility.

“My life mirrors the format simply because it plays out in a series of events, linked by the central figures, but thoroughly lacking what could be construed as a cohesive plot.”

They chuckle, but Adrienne is still peering at my face, even as the first few rolls are brought to the table.

I cross my arms. “Forgive my stoic reception. I can see the utility of such an app in this technological age. I think my reservations stem from the fact that I collect antiquities — books, for example. The internet and its new language were sudden and confusing, and I am still adjusting. Trending, memes, friending, retweeting, LOLZ — it’s enough to make my head spin.”

“I see you on Twitter all the time! You’re great with social media,” Laurie persists, taking a piece from each roll.

“It has been very helpful. I can interact with people, learn from them, without having to explain myself. Everyone is anonymous there.”

“So you’re on board with the idea?”

“Yes. If anything, it will pull me further into the modern age. A monster does need to stay with the times, I think.”

She nods as if she always knew I’d see her brilliance. “We’re going to have to talk about how we want to market it. I’ll do a press release. Simon can put some entries up on his website, maybe some more recipes.”

“We’re working on banners and cover art.” Adrienne chews thoughtfully. “We really need a headshot of you.”

I blink. “No photography.”

Laurie clears her throat. “Simon doesn’t do pictures.”

“Why?”

I put a segment of spicy tuna in my mouth as an excuse to avoid the issue, but she is keen enough to wait until I have smashed the thing to a pulp with my tongue. “If you just told the world — and every alphabet agency in it — that you were an immortal, implicated in about two dozen deaths or disappearances per annum, and then gave out your recipes for same, would you want your face all over the internet?”

“Hmm. I see your point.”

She smirks. I sigh. She doesn’t believe it either. Like Laurie, she finds my precautions silly, if entertaining.

I’m telling you — one day you’re going to wake up and find that all frontal lobe activity has dwindled to a hum that reads rather like a celebrity Tumblr feed. I and mine will wander the earth like a scourge, gorging on the fattened calves and dimwitted offerings of your intellectual transgressions.

“Besides, it’d be pretty difficult to decide on which face to wear! I mean he’s a man now, but sometimes he’s a woman.” Laurie points at me with her chop sticks. “He has all these synthetic parts. Like that German guy on The Strain.”

The hiss is all I can manage.

Am I to always be plagued by Bram Stoker and his undead offspring? He should never have popularized the fiction of Romanian housewives. All that glitters is not vampires!

What is it they say these days?

Let me see: #thestruggleisreal.

She catches a look at my fixed expression and swallows her hamachi. “Sorry! Vampires. Right.”

“You won’t even take a selfie with me?”

My mouth falls open. “No!”

Adrienne’s blond head tilts as she grins. “But your face is fascinating.”

“I’m giving very serious thought to eating both of you.”

Laurie laughs. “Relax, Lector! If you eat us, we can’t do a sequel.”

I prop my elbow on the table and cradle my face in my hand. “How exactly does one sequel one’s life, Laurie?”

“Flashbacking?”

I return to my food — out of responsibility, I assure you. Discomfort and exasperation make me hungry. Bad things happen when I am hungry.

Tapas Media