LOCAL CHEFS SHARE GAME DAY SNACK RECIPES
Chef Isaac Toups’ Famed Cracklins
Chef Isaac Toups, Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” season 13 “Fan Favorite;” owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans and author of Chasing the Gator – Isaac Toups & the New Cajun Cooking (Little, Brown) loves finger foods for game day snacks. According to Isaac, Cracklins, also called grattons, “are deep-fried chunks of pork belly and skin. But they’re so much more than that. They are the most unique dish that comes from Cajun culture, and they make me insanely happy. At a boucherie, cracklins are often the first things ready to eat. Once you holler “grattons!” everyone comes running.”
Chef Isaac Toups
Serving : 6 cups, 1lb
2 pounds skin-on pork belly
3 cups lard
1-gallon peanut oil
Crack Spice (recipe follows)
EQUIPMENT 2 (13-quart) Dutch ovens
Place pork belly skin side up on a cutting board and cut into 1 ¼ inch pieces.
Start with a cold 13-quart Dutch. It should be large enough to hold the pork belly chunks and cover them in rendered lard by at least an inch.
Add the cold lard and cold skin-on belly to the cold pot. Turn the heat to medium-high. As the lard starts to melt, give the pork belly a gentle toss with a wooden spoon, and make sure the pieces of pork belly are separated—they’re naturally going to want to stick together. As the lard melts and the fat renders, the oil in the pot should be 240°F. That’s the ideal temperature for rendering the cracklins.
As the belly renders down, it’s going to create more lard. Stir very gently; if you cause too much commotion the skin will separate from the meat and fat. Just give the pieces of pork belly an occasional nudge so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you see bits of skin exposed, turn them back upside down to submerge them in the oil.
Pull the rendered cracklins off the heat when the skin starts to blister, and the outsides are uniformly golden brown (this can take 45 minutes to an hour). Take the whole Dutch oven off the heat and let the rendered cracklins sit in the oil and rest until they have completely calmed down, meaning that the oil is no longer bubbling or popping, about 10 minutes. Remove the cracklins with a spider or slotted spoon and put them in a metal colander or on a wire rack set in a sheet pan so they can drain. (Don’t place them on paper towels—they’ll stick.) You don’t need them to be completely free of fat, you just don’t want them sitting in a pool of lard.
Let the cracklins cool for about 20 minutes in the fridge. Then take your second cold Dutch oven and add enough peanut oil to cover the cracklins in oil by at least an inch with enough room for you to stir them without sloshing oil over the sides.
Set the Dutch oven over high heat and preheat the oil to 380°F. Deep-fry the cracklins for about a minute, until the skin has puffed. Remove from the oil and drain (again, don’t use paper towels). While they’re still hot, season liberally with Crack Spice.
Crack Spice (1 cup)
6 tablespoons popcorn salt
6 tablespoons ground chile de Arbol (or 3 tablespoons each cayenne pepper and smoked paprika)
3 tablespoons ground white pepper
3 tablespoons granulated garlic
3 tablespoons celery salt
3 tablespoons sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to combine. And cover your mouth and nose while you do this. Trust me.
*Popcorn salt is an ultra-fine salt that can be found at well-stocked grocers or online at jqdsalt.com.
Chef Nina Compton’s Conch Croquettes
James Beard Award-winning Chef Nina Compton’s conch coquettes are a tasty treat everyone will love. Perfect for game day, these crispy fritters are packed with the flavors of the Caribbean. The dish can also be made with minced shrimp.
Conch Croquettes and Pickled Pineapple Tartar Sauce
Yields One Appetizer Portion
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ Spanish onion, peeled & finely chopped (about ½ cup)
2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk warm
1 bell pepper diced
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne
8 oz. conch poached (see recipe below)
½ tsp. salt
1 pinch nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and peppers and cook until they are translucent about 5 minutes. Add 1½ cups of the flour and mix energetically. Cook for 5 minutes to make sure the flour is cooked through; it should start to take on a golden color. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes; add the spices, until you have a thick béchamel.
Add the conch and sprinkle in the salt and nutmeg. Cook for another 2 minutes. The mixture should be thick enough that you can mold in your hands. Carefully pick up a bit and try to ball it with your hands. It shouldn’t be too sticky. If it does stick to your hands, cook it a little longer. Then, spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and let it cool to room temperature.
Take a spoonful of the cooled béchamel mixture and roll it in your hands to make a small cylinder the size of a wine cork. Roll the cylinder in the remaining 1 cup of flour, then in the eggs, and then in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the croquettes.
In a small, deep frying pan, heat the olive oil to 375°F (190°C – measured with a candy thermometer). Add the croquettes in small batches, making sure they are covered completely in oil. Fry until they have a nice golden color, about 1-2 minutes; then transfer them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with all the croquettes and serve hot with some tartar sauce and lemon wedges. Enjoy!
1 onion julienned
½ bunch rosemary
8 oz. conch
3 qt. water
Method: Caramelize the onions in a sauté pan and add the rosemary. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the conch and simmer for 45 minutes. Take off heat and cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely in liquid.
(Yields: Approx. ¾ cup)
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
1 tsp. chopped capers and 2 Tbsp. juice (from jar)
1 Tbsp. jalapeño or Calabrese chili, chopped finely
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, plus wedges, for serving/garnish
2 Tbsp. pickled pineapple, small diced or mango
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, pinch (or to taste)
Method: Combine all ingredients and serve.
Chef Brian Landry’s Pork Poppers
Chef Brian Landry, the Chef/Owner of Jack Rose, says easy, shareable finger foods are the way to go for an at-home game day watch party. Made with pork tenderloin, bacon, cream cheese, and herbs, his delicious pork poppers are a real crowd pleaser and perfect game day snack! Watch out, these go fast.
1 ½ lbs pork tenderloin
¼ cup creole seasoning
3 each pickled jalapeños, sliced thin
10 strips thick cut smoked bacon
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
6 ounces cane syrup
6 ounces sherry or balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
- Rub the pork tenderloin with creole seasoning.
- Sear the tenderloin in a minimal amount of oil in a cast-iron skillet just until a crust forms.
- Place the tenderloin in the refrigerator, then cut into ¼” by 2” strips
- Wrap each piece of pork tenderloin around a slice of pickled jalapeno, then wrap a piece of bacon around the pork.
- Skewer the poppers with a bamboo skewer.
- Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature.
- Once soft, mix in the herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the cane syrup and vinegar to a small saucepot.
- Reduce the syrup vinegar mix by half.
- Grill the skewers of poppers until the bacon is crispy and slightly charred.
- Smear some of the cream cheese in a line on a plate.
- Remove the poppers from the skewer and place on top of the cream cheese.
- Drizzle some of the cane syrup over the poppers.