Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Chicken Fat

Let's get something right out on the table...fat is amazing. I won't go into all the reasons we think this. Let me just mention that we all love it, which is why we feel deprived when we don't get it. We make excuses for why we can't have it.

The classic chef adage is "fat is flavor." Boy are they right. If you think eating out at a restaurant tastes better merely because the chef is more talented in his left pinky than you ever might be in a million years you are only half right. A big reason they are better is because they do things you would never think of doing. They use more heat, more salt, and more fat.

Fat is not all together bad for you. Yes, I know the 459 diet books you have on your shelf say that any kind of fat (and any flavor and joy in life) is hateful against your body, but they are wrong. How do I know this...one simple word...France. You're welcome. The French eat so much more fat than we do it is mind boggling. In fact there is an entire term for it, "The French Paradox." Not kidding.

Now to chickens in particular. Chickens are God's gift to simple eating. This is for many reasons, but the main one I would like to focus on is it's fat. The vast majority of the fat on a chicken resides in its skin. This insulates the lean interiors making the bird almost perfect as is. But fat in any form scares us to death. Accordingly, we in America have done our best to remove all skin from the parts of the chicken we eat. This is why the abominable practice of abusing a boneless, skinless chicken breast has become the pastime of seemingly every suburban middle class "food enthusiast." Don't get me wrong, on a busy week night this hunk of low fat, bone free, chunk of animal protein can serve as a beautiful and rapid vehicle for any number of flavorful preparations (most of which add a significant level of fat in other forms to the party). Just don't kid yourself that grilling this thing to death while basting it with "Italian dressing", or the like, is going to satisfy you. It won't.

Back to the skin.

The wonderful thing about the skin is that it can be heated and rendered leaving you with two products you never had before...schmaltz and chicken crackling. These two gifts must be on the top 100 list of pleasures in life. Here is the quick process of going from useless, lifeless, rubbery skin and fat to two delectable treats if you are breaking the whole chicken down into various pieces. Wait...you have never bought a whole chicken...you have never lived. And I'm not joking. Break down a bird. Get dirty. Use the bones for stock. See what it is like to dismember an animal and use it for food. I honestly see it as a spiritual experience. Something has given its life up for you to enjoy it, treat the thing with respect.

Step one: Remove fatty sections from the back of a whole bird (located near the big cavity) as well as from the chicken back. Really, you can use all the skin you have. The more the merrier. Then throw it all into a skillet (don't use non-stick...it sucks) and put it over medium heat. It will look like this:

Step two: Don't screw with it. Turn it every once in a while, but not too often. Lower the heat if it begins to smoke. You really can't mess this up. It will start to look like this, but leave it alone.

Step Three: Remove the skin and what you have left in the pan is liquid gold. People pay big money for good fat...you just got some for doing nothing. On top of that you have this:

That is free, fresh, low(er) fat crackling my friend. Little salt and pepper and you are good to go.

"Jeremy, what do I do with my new found free fat of awesomeness?!?"

Anything you want. Use it to fry eggs (chicken on chicken...mind bendingly good) or anything else you would use fat for. This is natural stuff, good stuff. Love it, appreciate it, and begin to embrace flavor.

Liquid gold

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Triple Threat Cookies

Those of you who know me know that in my opinion, the only thing that makes chocolate better, is more chocolate. These cookies have cocoa powder, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Awesome.

The original recipe called for 1 c crushed oreo cookies instead of the white choc chips. I made them both the original way, and my way and I have to say I like it my way better.

1 c butter
1 ½ c sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 c flour
½ c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 c chocolate chips
1 c white chocolate chips

Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into balls and set in baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Burnt Sugar Almonds

We made these and gave some of them away as Christmas presents but mostly we snacked on them all day long and put them out whenever people came over for dinner. They were super easy,really yummy and they are almonds, so good for you, right? We made another batch that had no vanilla and instead of cinnamon they had 3 types of chili powder on them but I liked the sweet ones the best.

1/3 plus 2 Tb water
1 c sugar
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c raw almonds
1 tsp vanilla

Put water, 1 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a Dutch oven and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as it starts to boil add the almonds to the mix, raise the temperature to high and stir CONSTANTLY until the water is boiled away.

The sugar will fry out a little but start to stick to the almonds. Keep stirring them around, so that the almonds don’t burn to the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat to medium low. Keep stirring until the almonds have an even shiny coat.

Dump in the rest of the sugar. Keep stirring and add the vanilla.

Keep stirring until the almonds are shiny but lumpy. As soon as this happens take them off the heat and spread them out on a sheet of parchment paper as much as you can. While they are cooling keep breaking them apart with your spoon until they are all separated.

Once they are cook store them in a dry closed container or bag.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Raise your hand if you know what Prince's Hot Chicken is. If you DIDN'T raise your hand you need to come and visit us... like now... so Jeremy can introduce you. What does that have to do with Lemon Cornmeal Cake? Well, I made it for dessert the other day. On a day when we had some friends over for dinner. Pasta, roasted cauliflower, salad, dessert. You would think that would be a filling yummy dinner right? Wrong, not if Prince's is an option. AFTER eating dinner and playing a board game the boys headed out to get some chicken. And when their insides were burning with hot chicken I pulled this dessert out for round two. Apparently it paired beautifully with the belly scorching madness that is Prince's. Here is the recipe. A friend got it from someone's blog and emailed it to me. Sorry I can't link to the original. Enjoy.

1 ½ c flour
1/3 c yellow cornmeal
½ c sugar
¼ c brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 Tb lemon zest
½ c + 1 Tb butter melted and cooled
1 ½ c powdered sugar
3 – 4 Tb lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over med heat until browned and fragrant. Tilt pan so butter coats pan bottom and sides evenly. Remove butter to a dish to cool.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, lemon zest and butter. Add wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula until very few lumps remain. Pour into cast iron pan and place in oven.

While the cake bakes whisk together powdered sugar and juice to make glaze.

Bake cake for 30 minutes or until toothpick test comes clean. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Use a skewer or fork to poke holes all over cake. Pour glaze over cake and spread evenly. Let it rest 30 min before serving.

Monday, March 7, 2011

King Prince

"Wait, is that..."


"Seriously? Two eggs scrambled in chicken schmaltz with the addition of a Prince's Hot Chicken thigh in the heat range of "hot" topped with some Tillamook Vintage White Cheddar all waiting to be wrapped up in a tortilla and scarfed?"


"Did you really do something like this at 5 AM?"


"Was it one of the best all time breakfast creations that you dreamt about late the same night you ate it...two days after a previous late night trip to Prince's?!?"


Friday, March 4, 2011

Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

This is another easy weeknight dinner. Just make sure you get good corn tortillas. Please don't buy them at your regular grocery store. Find a good international market or grocery store and get fresh tortillas.

2 c shredded cooked chicken
2 – 3 c shredded cheese
½ c sour cream
1 medium onion chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 green pepper, chopped
2/3 c water
1 Tb chili powder
1 ½ tsp chopped oregano
½ tsp cumin
2 green chilis seeded, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1 can tomato sauce
10 corn tortillas

Keep out a handful of cheese. Mix chicken, cheese, sour cream, onion, salt and pepper; set aside. Put green pepper, water, chili powder, oregano, cumin, green chilis, garlic and tomato sauce in a sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. One at a time, dip each tortilla in the enchilada sauce to coat both sides. Spoon about ¼ c of the filling into the tortilla then wrap the tortilla around the filling and place seam side down in a 9 X 13 baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes at 350.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Simple Biscuits

Here is another base recipe that is just a jumping off point. Easy, quick biscuits that you can throw together last minute to complete a meal.
I made chowder for dinner tonight using a recipe that some good friends gave us a couple of years ago, every time we eat it, it makes me think of them and the night they brought this over to our house. Don't you love how food is interwoven through our memories and lives.
Just before dinner I realized I really wanted something to eat along side the chowder so I slapped these bad boys together. The base recipe is below. Tonight I added cheddar cheese and pepper to it. You could also add pesto, sausage, olives, herbs, basically anything you can think of.

1 c flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ c shortening or butter
½ - 1 c milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves side of bowl. Knead lightly several times then roll about ½ inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into circles and place in ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes.