Do love crunchy stuff? Are you looking for a zero carb high-protein snack or a gluten-free, grain-free breading for vegetables, chicken or fish? Sure, you can use blanched almond flour and/or coconut flour, arrowroot, or tapioca starch to bread foods before baking or for the occasional fried treat, but if you add this not-so secret ingredient, you’ll enhance the crunchiness of the coating whether you bake or fry the vegetable, fish, or chicken.
I probably wouldn’t have tried these except that Kelly Milton’s recipe for baked onion rings, from Paleo Happy Hour, looked so enticingly delicious. I wanted to try it. I haven’t had fried onion rings in decades and I’d never eaten pork rinds (aka Chicharrones, craklins, or fried pork skins). I know, I know, you’re probably surprised that I would even think about buying and eating these. But these are different.
These are not big batch, highly processed pork rinds cooked in canola or partially hydrogenated oil, dusted with caramel color, FD&C dyes, sugar, MSG, GMO (genetically modified organisms), or other unsavory ingredients. These light, fluffy, crispy clouds of high-protein, zero-carb, grain-free, gluten-free goodness are minimally processed, made without any junky ingredients.
Here’s what’s in em:
Pork Skin, Olive
Oil, Salt, Malabar Black Pepper. No weird ingredients. No chemical names
From batteries to pork rinds
Pork Clouds are the brain child (or, uh, maybe stomach-child in this case?) of Brett Goodson who traded a career of making batteries for hybrid vehicles for one of making small, batch, artisan pork rinds. What started as an idea to improve the classic Chicarron culminated in a dinner party, and then more experimenting, and then the launching of a Bacon’s Heir, LLC in July of 2013.
In fact, Brett has tinkered with making pork rind sculptures and he’s launching Atlanta’s first annual Pork Rind Sculpture Contest. His aim is to “break out of the mold of what pork rinds have been
considered,” (who thinks of them as healthy foods, right?) and to
“engage with the art community to turn them into works for art.” If you
already think of food as art, like I do, then it’s not such a stretch.
So back to the Pork Clouds
Most snack foods are crazy high in refined carbs, sodium, and often sugar too. Combine a high carb content with a high fat content (as many popular snack foods do) and you have a dangerous combination that stimulates a surge of insulin and deposition on your abdomen, hips, and thighs. Omit the carby stuff and use a better quality of oil for frying and you’ve got an improvement on something that people in Chile, Columbia and Cuba and from Ecuador to El Salvador and Panama, to Puerto Rico have been making for centuries. Many Latin American countries make their own version of chicarron, served as a taco or gordita with salsa verde, eaten like a snack, used as a stuffing, and in various soups and stews.
These crunchy, munchy morsels have the fat content of potato chips (they’re meant to be a treat, not an every day indulgence!) but none of the carbs and they have a significantly higher protein content. Think snack food meets meat. Pork Clouds represent a meaty alternative to normal appetizer and snack food options.
One serving, half an ounce (a quarter of the two-ounce bag) provides 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, and 280 mg of sodium and 90 calories. Pair one or two servings with some salsa or guacamole and veggie dippers or with a cup of homemade vegetable soup and salad and you’d have a protein-rich snack or meal.
Pork Clouds are handmade and kettle cooked in small batches in Atlanta, GA, using all natural salt-cured pork skins, olive oil, and seasonings. They have one flavor available nationally right now (Pork Clouds with Malibar Black Pepper). Brett is currently working on a Habanero & Sea Salt and a Rosemary & Sea Salt flavor. I suggested chipotle flavor too, since that’s my favorite kind of pepper. If your local natural foods market doesn’t carry them, you might encourage them to add them to their inventory.
What can you do with them?
Well, besides eating them out of the bag, I think they’d be great dipped in salsa and or guacamole for a party appetizer for people who eat low carb, paleo, primal, gluten free, and/or grain free. They’d probably be really yummy cut or crumbled into pop corn size pieces and used to garnish a creamy carrot or squash soup (or my Broccoli Avocado Soup). You could use them like croutons on a salad? Use them as a breading for baked Onion Rings, chicken tenders, or fish sticks.
Be careful about when you open the bag. When mine arrived in the mail, I was famished (intermittent fasting and a couple of hours away from my first meal of the day at lunch time). I was so excited! I thought I would open the package to take some pictures and powder some of them for making the breading for the baked Onion Rings, later. Then I thought I would taste one (as in, just one!). Note to self: Don’t open the bag until you are ready to eat these. Camera or no camera. These things are curiously enticing.
So, I tried one. And then another…and another. Then I told myself,“Stop! You’ve got to have enough for the recipe!” I also really wanted to wait for lunch. So, I stopped. I can see how people could keep going with these wispy, cloud-like, salty, savory, crunchy, slightly spicy, meaty morsels! I don’t normally (or abnormally) buy chips of any kind. I occasionally make baked blue corn chips or organic yellow corn chips or brown rice tortilla chips in cooking classes, for dinner parties, or for myself for a treat but it’s not part of my daily or weekly fare. If I eat between meals, I prefer intentional snacks made from nourishing ingredients and with a definite starting and stopping point to the eating event, rather than aimless noshing.
Still, if you’re going to snack, eat snack food, eat between meals, or set out party munchies, these are much more nutritious than many of the usual snacking options and they have amazing potential for breading a wide range of different vegetables, fish, and poultry parts. I’ve volunteered to be a taste tester for Bacon’s Heir Pork Clouds and their new flavors. I still have about a handful in my pantry that I think would be really delicious on top of soup or in tomorrow’s salad. We’ll see…
If you like supporting small, artisan food vendors, and you like pork or pork rinds, and you try Pork Clouds, let me know what you think.
So, there you have it. An improvement on the conventional chicarron and a great idea for breading foods. If you want to try this product, click here or on the icon below. For Kelly Milton’s recipes, including some that use pork rinds as a breading ingredient, click on her books below.