Vegetarians, Avert Your Eyes

Teacherman and his family have a very straight-forward approach to Christmas presents. Halfway through December, while out on some errand or other, he called his sister:

“Hey, Sis, have you bought me a Christmas present yet?”
“Nope, what’s up?”
“Well, I’m just right now buying the present you’ll be giving me.”
“Okay, bring the receipt the next time you see me. ‘Bye!”

This is a bit more nonchalance about the Deep Mystery of Christmas Presents than I’m used to, but it does produce satisfactory results. This year, Teacherman was the recipiant (so to speak) of a medium-sized electric deep-fryer. Its’ frying chamber is entirely enclosed and the exterior has many little lights that go on and off and handles that move the basket up and down while the lid is still closed–I haven’t played with it yet, but then, I don’t need to. Teacherman is in love with it and has been producing item after delicious item out of it at every opportunity. We’ve fried chicken and cheese and slices of sausage and onion rings and catfish and just about everthing we could lay our hands upon.

Until this Friday, the undisputed best result was deep-fried hard-boiled eggs. Yes, really–don’t make that face at me! I remembered that I’d read about such a thing in an Asian cookbook one time, so we slightly under-hard-boiled some eggs, peeled them and tossed them into the fryer. About a minute later we pulled out eggs with a golden, crispy exterior that could have been breading, but wasn’t. I don’t know the alchemical process behind it, but the top layer of egg fries into a puffy, crunchy shell while leaving the inside still soft and yielding. I pretty much defines the word appetizing, especially when dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and lime juice.

You might have noticed, however, the sneaky word _until_ in that beginning superlative. This Friday we deep-fried something that was not only delicious, but actually slightly shameful. We deep-fried chicken skin. Earlier in the week the grocery had been out of boneless skinless chicken thighs for our stir-fry, so we bought whole legs and boned and skinned them. The bones went into an already-started chicken-carcass bag in the freezer (for stock-making), and the chicken skin, because I cannot stand to throw anything away, went into its own bag in the freezer, though for what future purpose I knew not.

A few days later, though, when delving into the icy depths for a snack, I noticed the bag of chicken skin and had a brain-wave. When ever I make duck breasts, I peel off the skin and fat before cooking, then cut it up and oven-render the resulting cubes into duck cracklings. Chicken skin doesn’t have nearly as much attached fat, but that wouldn’t matter if it were deep-fried. I am inordinantly fond of the crispy skin from a roast chicken (though I am always disappointed about the wasted skin from the bottom and sides that ends up soggy, flabby and greasy). This idea struck me as one that would produce similar, if not better, results. I immediately hatched a plan.

The next night (after some defrosting of the main ingredient), Teacherman cut up the chicken skin into strips, placed it into his contraption, and closed the lid. Five minutes later we had shatteringly crisp, bronzed shards that, after draining on a paper towel, weren’t at all greasy. We sprinkled them with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and served them on top of a romaine salad dressed with a garlicky vinaigrette. In my opinion, it was just as good as a frisee au lardon–the cracklings combined the characteristics of both the lardons and the croutons, the the texture of the romaine lettuce and the cracklings contrasted just enough to be interesting, and it was still possible to get both on the fork, which is often difficult with a crouton.

Unlike bacon, though, chicken skin is not an ingredient that one would seek out on its own. I don’t know when I’ll next have any leftover chicken skin, but when I do, I can think of nothing else I’d rather do with it besides deep-fry it.

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Published in: on March 11, 2007 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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