Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baked and Easy Crispy Pata

My Crispy Pata Gallery

Whenever I think of Crispy Pata, my memory would take me back to my mom's kitchen. My mom was a great cook, and she loved it. She is also a great influence in terms of my love food and cooking itself. Crispy Pata whenever it was prepared it would always mean that there's a special occasion. When I was still single I never tried to make it since my mom was always there to whip it up for us.

But when I dated my husband, I later found out how he loves Crispy pata. I myself am a big fan of it. So its always present when there's a special occassion since we moved here. And it can be recycled into other dishes. My definition of Crispy Pata is seasoned whole pork leg ( pata is leg in Spanish ), boiled and deep fried to perfection until the skin is crispy. I have seen my mom make it a couple of times back home in the Philippines but I never realized how challenging it was until I made one myself.

Mommy's Style
My mom said there is a specific sign that you have to look for before you fry the leg. When boiling, you shouldn't overdo it. The skin has to be tender and so is the meat but it shouldn't fall off the bone. When the meat is ready, you can season it again with rock salt. But she always used seasoned water (salt and pepper ) when she boils the leg. And then you can finally deep fry the meat. So this was how she prepares her crispy pata.

First Time
One thing that I try to avoid in my kitchen is deep frying. I find it too messy in the kitchen and too unhealthy. Crispy Pata is comfort food to some but it is very sinful as well. My first Crispy Pata experience was not very good. I don't have a deep-fryer so I had to resort a small deep pan for frying. The results was very impressive, my husband enjoyed it so much. But the preparation left a mess in my kitchen, and I didn't enjoy the oil splattering in my stove.

Bagged and Baked
A few months after that experience I found out from Connie Verneracion's recipe that you can bake Crispy Pata. My second one was baked knowing that it could be done. Though it takes a lot time to achieve the crispy stage of the leg I couldn't complain since I just had to let my oven do the work. So now the deep-frying part which I really dislike can be eliminated. And by accident, I found out that I can eliminate the boiling process too. This happened when I prepared my first turkey for Thanksgiving last year. My friend suggested oven bags for a fool-proof Thanksgiving turkey prep. Oven bags keep the moisture in the meat and it make it tender as well. So there I had my "eureka" moment. And it definitely saved me from the hassles of finding a big pot so it can fit my huge Pork Shoulder Picnic for boiling.

The Recipe

1 Pork Shoulder Picnic not less than 8lbs.
1 Reynold's Oven Bags for 8lbs and up
salt and freshly cracked pepper ( you can add other dry seasonings as well )
meat thermometer
large cookie sheet or baking pan

Preheat your oven to 375 F

Wash the meat and rub desired dried seasonings, place the meat in the oven bag and follow instructions on the bag (varies with the weight of the meat ) (Please Read the Instructions in the Bag, ITS IMPORTANT!)

1st Part
I usually cook mine at least 2 hours @ 375 F until the juices are clear and the skin & meat of the pork is tender, and the internal temperature ( insert meat thermometer at the meatiest part, its okay to puncture the bag) is at least 165F.

2nd Part
Once the meat is cooked, remove bag then put it back on the pan for the second part of baking - skin side up. Sometimes there's a generous amount of meat juice in the oven bag, I keep in my fridge in the container to solidify the pork fat then I remove it. This meat juice is concentrated pork stock that I save for future use. You can adjust the temperature from 350F - 400F (not more than that, as per bag instructions). If you start with 400F, it will brown your meat in a short period of time. Then once golden brown you can lower the temperature to 350F or 375F. This will allow it cook evenly without burning the meat. Check for the internal temp (at least 165F) and if the skin makes a hollow sound when tapped your Crispy Pata is ready*. Remove from oven wait at least 5mins. before serving. Garnish as desired.

If you want a slow and low cooking ( that is if you have enough time ) you can start @ 350F or 375F. It will still yield the same result but only its a longer cooking time. For me, I choose the cooking time that fits me.

*Based on my experience it usually takes at least 4hours to make Crispy Pata. The cooking time varies on the weight of your meat ( based on a Pork Shoulder Picnic cut )so it is important to check the internal temperature with your meat thermometer to avoid under cooking it.

You can do the 1st part the day before or in advance then do the second part on your desired date or occasion. And by the way, about the meat I use Pork Shoulder Picnic cut since its the closest thing I could find that's good for Crispy Pata and the price per pound is a good bargain. Always choose the one with skin. I buy this part at WalMart or Save-a-Lot but if you have a butcher you can ask for the usually Crispy Pata part. And remember to specify with skin since I had a bad experience with that last December. I went to a local meat shop and ordered the part - whole pork leg with the hocks and I specifically asked and noted on the order slip "with skin". The following day they gave me a skinless leg! I said nicely I cant take it since I was specific with my order, the lady said the butcher doesn't want to do anything with it anymore. He said he's fed up of how specific my order was and didn't even apologize. They were so rude and good thing they gave me back my deposit. I never came back to that shop and get my meat elsewhere.