Timothy Cunningham

Chuletas Can-Can: Puerto Rico's perfect pork chop (Oven style)

Chueltas Can-Can or Can-Can Chops are a new experience for me.  A friend of mine had a hog butchered. The butcher left the pork  belly, skin, fat & loin meat attached to the pork chops.  It is called Can-Can (or sometimes Kan-Kan) because the skin and fat make a frill pattern much like the frilled skirt of the classic "Can-Can" dancers of old.

The cut itself offers the promise of a meaty juicy pork chop combined with the rich fat of the belly and that crispy, crispy fried skin that crunches when you bite into it.

It also holds challenges in that the cooking method that best suits a pork chops is not the same methods that suit pork belly and pig skins!

Finding recipes for Chueltas Can-Can were not abundant. So I pieced together what recipes I could find, synthesized it with research from what constitutes traditional Puerto Rican cuisine and set about experimenting.  I cooked the pork two different ways: 

Brine the meat.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 Tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 Tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano

Dissolve salt and sugar into the water. Put the pork and and brine into a zip top bag and let sit in fridge for between 2 to 8 hours.  Afterwards discard brine and rinse the pork completely.  Return the pork to the fridge for 2-3 hours to allow the brine to equalize through the meat.

After the pork has rested, use a sharp knife to score the skin and fat into thin segments.  Rub only the "frill" fat with kosher salt and a tablespoon of baking powder. The baking powder will change  the alkalinity of the fat to help it render more crispy when fried.

Bake at 350 F

In large bowl rub pork with 
  • Sofrito (see future recipe)
  • garlic powder
  • ground pepper
  • ground coriander seeds
  • onion powder
  • Olive oil
Place on oven tray, covered in foil in preheated oven at 350 F. Cook for 10 - 15 or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 110 F. While the pork is cooking, now is time to heat up the fry oil. When the pork has reached 110 F you may remove the pork from the oven and fry it immediately.  You can also optionally let the internal temperature reach 140 F if you plan to fry the put the chops in the fridge to cool down completely and fry later.

Fry at 350 F

In a very tall pot, add enough cooking oil to submerge the entire pork chop.  The pot needs to be tall because the oil will rise up and you don't want a kitchen fire! Please be safe.  Heat the oil to 350 F. Remove the pork from the oven and pat dry with paper towels.

Slowly and carefully lower the chop into fry oil, checking often to see if the fat is getting crispy, the internal temperature of the pork needs to reach between 145 F and 160 F according to the USDA to be safe to eat. For taste and moisture purposes, anything above 150 is a travesty.   The meat will continue to rise in internal temperature after you remove it from the hot oil. So plan for a 10 degree "carry over" once the pork is removed. So if you want 150 F pork, remove it from the oil just when the internal temp reaches 140 F.  But continue to monitor the temperature to make sure it indeed reaches at least 145. If not, return to oil to cook some more.

Let pork rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serve up on a very large platter, with yellow rice, fried plantains and  pineapple, mango & jalapeño salsa.



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