Monday, June 11, 2012

New Treat: Crispy Chicken Skin

I love chicken skin. As a matter of fact, after I carve a roasted chicken, I go so far as to tear off the skin left on the carcass and make a little pile of it on the platter along with the meaty pieces. So you can only imagine how delighted I was on receiving this post from contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food.

One indication of the confusion over what constitutes food that’s good for us is the reluctance to eat chicken skin (I won’t get on the soapbox, but if you think it’s bad for you, read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It by Gary Taubes). If we’ve got guests for dinner, and I cooked a chicken, I ask them to save any skin they’re not eating so I can make crispy chicken skin (see How to Eat a Chicken for details).

But there’s only so much skin on one chicken, like the sublime example at left. Sometimes you want more. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to get—just ask your butcher. Any meat counter that does more than open boxes of already processed chicken parts can usually get you some skin if you’re willing to wait a few days. I get mine from New Seasons. Just ask.

Once you’ve got some skin (a pound is a nice place to start), spread the pieces out in a heavy skillet or other suitable baking dish (be sure use one with a bit of depth to hold the fat that cooks out). Salt well and roast at 350° for about 45 minutes or until the skin gets, well, crispy. Let cool and store in the refrigerator so you’ve got a ready supply for things like grilled cheese with crispy chicken skin or anything else where you want a crisp, savory note.

Be sure to pour off and save all that good chicken fat, too. You can use it to make this:

Mushrooms with Crispy Chicken Skin

Wash and thickly slice a pound or so of button mushrooms. Start cooking them without any fat in a heavy skillet over medium heat. The liquid in the mushrooms will soon cook out, and when it’s about to disappear altogether, add a couple of tablespoons or so of the chicken fat (if you’re using crispy skin from a leftover roast chicken, use extra virgin olive oil). Cook the mushrooms in the fat for at least another 20 minutes.

Coarsely chop some crispy skin, enough to give you about a half cup or so after chopping. Add it to the mushrooms and cook a bit longer. Add a little fresh rosemary if you feel so inclined. Or sprinkle liberally with pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) and, if you like heat, a little cayenne or piment d’Espelette.

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