Guilty Pleasures


Written by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

My husband and I have been traveling to Costa Rica for over 20 years. We love it there — in fact we love it so much that we got married there. It is truly the most alive place I have ever been in my life. The landscape is amazing! Rainforests, jungle, rugged highlands and beautiful beaches. Flowers growing in wild profusion, fruit falling ripe to the ground from the monkey filled trees. After dark the air is filled with the sounds of birds, insects, lizards. It makes you feel as if you’re listening to the sounds of the jungle renewing itself, the cycle of life doing its thing as you listen to the music of the night.

© 2012 Jacqueline Twa

Over the years my husband and I have discovered many culinary treasures in this beautiful country, and each trip we always ensure significant indulgence in our favourite cravings. When we are at our dear friends near Nosara at Guiones Beach, we make heavenly pizza in their wonderful outdoor forno oven while watching the sunset over the endless beach. We indulge in homemade tamales filled with chicken, egg, olives and prunes – yes, prunes! We go to our favorite Italian place in the capital city called Tutti Li specifically for dessert, in particular their wonderful nutella filled pasta bundles. We enjoy the country’s national dish called Gallo Pinto (said guy-o-pinto), which is made from cooking small black beans with celery, cilantro and onion then mixed with rice and served with a fried egg on top and covered in a wonderful cumin based sauce called Salsa Lizano (available online).

© 2012 Jacqueline Twa

But by far our favorite treat in Costa Rica happens when we head north to our dear friend’s farm in San Carlos, to the little town that we were married in called Boca Arenal. This is where the ‘guilty pleasures’ part of my article comes into play, in the form of Chicaronnes (pronounced cheech-a-rone-ees).

Now in life there are many varying degrees of guilty pleasures, like watching the Kardashians or eating some of your kid’s Halloween treats when they are in bed fast asleep, and then there are those REALLY guilty pleasures. Like eating Chicaronnes.

By definition, a Chicaronne is basically a piece of deep fried pig fat or pig skin. Sounds kind of gross – but I assure you it is ridiculously good! In the supermarket world, Chicaronnes are those pork rind chip type things you can buy in a bag, but freshly made Chicaronnes are something very different indeed. To truly understand how amazing they are (yes I can hear the groans of protest from the vegetarians in the crowd) you simply must try them made fresh.

© 2012 Jacqueline Twa

To make the Chicarrones you need a large outdoor burner and the biggest, thickest metal pot you own that is suitable to cook things at extremely high temperatures for a long period of time. You will need a giant metal slotted spoon and beers on ice. You also need pork. To be more specific, you need pork skin and fat with a small amount of meat still clinging to it for dear life. You need salt, fresh lime juice, tortillas, and most importantly a single potent Peruvian Pepper (lethal little buggers meant to burn your face off).

You begin the cooking ritual by putting the pot on the burner and cranking up the fire. Cut the pork fat and skin into approximately one-inch square cubes. Put about a tablespoon of a high smoking point oil in the pot and add the pork goodies.  Now for the tricky part. Throw in the Peruvian pepper and fry the living daylights out of the pork until it is brown, crisp and succulent. During the cooking process it is crucial to drink at least a couple of cold ones otherwise you’ll melt from the heat. Honestly, it takes a good 45 minutes to an hour to render this kind of scary mound of meat, skin and fat into crispy, crunchy, porky magnificence!

© 2012 Jacqueline Twa

When the pork is ready, take your massive slotted spoon and pull out the pieces onto a large platter and salt liberally. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve on a small flour tortilla.

Mmmmmm.

Pure, unadulterated, guilty bliss.