Make Your Own Pork Pops at Home

The other night I was drinking wine and eating monkfish liver with my culinary soulmate, Donnie, and lamenting about when odds-and-ends meat cuts become trendy and then are suddenly expensive.

Pork pops

Pork pops

Take the case of the aforementioned monkfish liver. It used to be the rare non-Japanese person who would try this odd delicacy at the sushi bar, and I could buy a whole softball-sized liver at the Japanese market for a few bucks. Then some clever gringos took note and began calling it “monkfish fois gras,” and now you pay $6 for three or four little discs. The same thing happened years ago with that cast-off, the beef short rib — a meat you couldn’t give away in the old days — which suddenly began springing up braised on menus from bars to bistros.

After Donnie and I finished our monkfish liver, we moved on to another odd cut — one which, thankfully, has not yet been commandeered by the beautiful foodies — the pork jowl.

Even the rustic cured Italian version of the cut, guanciale, remains comparatively reasonable. Perhaps it’s because like bacon, it’s basically fat marbled with flesh. And people can only eat so much fat. At the Japanese market, I get a packet of nine or ten strips of jowl for about $3. The greatest problem you may have is finding it in your average market. I’m sure the butcher can help you.

I’ve written about skewered pork jowl before — but it’s one of those things that is so good, I need to revisit the subject again and again. And that night at the Schnieders, I discovered a new method of preparing it which pushed it over the edge of deliciousness. I love the combination of anise and pork, especially the way the Chinese do it. So the jowl I served that evening was cut in strips, threaded on bamboo skewers, sprinkled generously with salt, pepper and Chinese five-spice, and grilled to a crisp golden brown. I plattered it, then drizzled with some plum sauce. This was followed by the wordless murmuring only a roomful of satisfied palates can produce.

My friend, Matthew, wrote a book called “Make Your Own Ice Pops at Home,” which gave me inspiration for the title of this post. What kid-at-heart doesn’t want to relive the summertime pleasure of skipping in from outside, grabbing a golden pork pop from the grill and nibbling crispy flesh straight from the skewer?? I had you at crispy, didn’t I…

*    *    *

Chinese five-spice pork pops with plum sauce
serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lb. pork jowl, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly, finely ground pepper
1 tsp. Chinese five spice
2 tbsp. Chinese plum sauce
bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Thread your jowl strips onto the bamboo skewers. You should have somewhere between 12 and 16, depending on how you cut the jowl. Mix together salt, pepper and five spice and sprinkle the rub over your jowl strips.

Heat your grill to its hottest. You will want to cook the jowl quickly on high heat. (You can also broil them in a hot oven if a grill is unavailable.) Cook for about three or four minutes, turning frequently, until uniformly golden brown and crisp. (You may need to move them around the grill if fat flare-ups are occurring.)

Remove from heat to a platter. Drizzle with plum sauce and serve.

*    *    *

And here’s what happens when we have too much to drink, start taking pictures, and find ourselves hungover with time to kill on Photoshop the next morning:

Pork pops

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rachelocal
    Mar 01, 2013 @ 02:55:28

    I thought I was your culinary soul mate.

    (Yeah, right. I’ve never even SEEN monkfish liver.)


  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Mar 01, 2013 @ 06:11:24

    Pork on a stick? oh god, yes — looks awesome!

    And a sidenote: Since i work in the meat-selling biz I can tell you just how frustrating it is watching those various unusual meat cuts climb in price. I was just talking to one of my suppliers today who was bemoaning food TV chefs making things so expensive. Veal cheeks (which is what I was calling him about) have gone up $5/# over the past 8-10 months. Heads, tails, tongues and feet are all getting expensive and harder to come by.


    • scolgin
      Mar 01, 2013 @ 14:18:15

      Bastards TV chefs. Veal cheeks reminds me of another of my faves that went upmarket — halibut cheeks. I can’t even FIND them anymore because the trendsters buy them all up directly from the distributors.


  3. Michelle
    Mar 01, 2013 @ 21:55:21

    I’ll pass on the monkfish liver (and, yes, I’ve tried it). Does that mean I can have an extra pork pop?


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