Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting Jiggy with Mark Bittman: West Indian Crispy Pork Bits

Ever have those days (weeks, months) where everything and everyone just seems particularly difficult? It's times like those when you really appreciate the beauty of a ridiculously easy recipe like this one that just so happens to produce some genuinely delicious comfort food. The catch, however, is that it does require some advance preparation. But they say good things come to those who wait, and this dish is indeed, in the words of Martha Stewart, a very good thing.

This recipe is from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, which is guaranteed to coax even the most fearful novice cooks into the kitchen. The recipes are easy enough to make you go, "Hey, even I can do that!" and before you know it, you are.

Then, bolstered by your success, you become increasingly confident, start experimenting with your own flavor profiles and before you know it, you've got your own cooking show. In your head. Or, you give up your day job and hawk your own product line.  Yo, Mark Bittman, thank you! You'll either get royalties or me showing up on your doorstep, suitcase and hungry cats in tow.

Okay, now that I'm done scaring the crap out of Mark Bittman, let's get back to this recipe for West Indian Crispy Pork Bits. I think the title is regionally vague on purpose, because it wouldn't be very authentic if you tried to ascribe it to any one particular country or island. I would definitely play around with some orange juice or cumin next time around but for this first incarnation, I just doubled all the marinade ingredients for more pronounced flavors.

Really, the hardest part of this recipe is chopping up the pork into bite-sized morsels. You then marinate the meat overnight and throw it into the oven the next day, remembering to toss the pieces around every 20 minutes or so. When you're done, the meat is the color of burnt caramel, redolent of herbs and sizzling with crispy, crackling fat.

Mark (Yeah, we're on a first name basis. Me and Mark, we're buds.) categorizes this as an appetizer, hence my initial plating of the pork with toothpicks. But the dish is deceptively rich on its own, and after a few bites, I realized this little pig (I leave you to wonder whether I mean the pork or me) needed some rice. Maybe some black beans, plantains and some fried eggs, too, if you really wanted to get jiggy with it.

And believe me, this is so easy, you'll want to get jiggy. Maybe even serve some Mojitos or Mai Tais in coconut shells and put on some Bob Marley. I'd like to think Mark--hell, even Martha--would approve.

West Indian Crispy Pork Bits

Adapted from a recipe in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

  • 1 1/2-2 lbs (700-900) grams pork shoulder, preferably organic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or use 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Cut the meat into bite‐sized bits. Toss with all the other ingredients. Cover and marinate, refrigerated, preferably overnight.

Heat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Put the meat in a roasting pan large enough to hold it in one layer (it will shrink considerably, so a tight fit is okay). Roast for about an hour and 20 minutes, shaking and stirring the meat occasionally, until the meat is brown and crisp on all sides.

Remove the meat with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle liberally with lime juice and serve hot or at room temperature.


  1. I want! It sounds sisig-ish. And sisig is my diet's kryptonite.

  2. It is definitely sisig-ish, chicharon-ish even. Deserves its own star in the cholesterol hall of fame. But hey, it's organic! ;)