chicken Tag

Chicken crackling smash burger

”  the wonder of chicken is that, even though the meat lags behind pork and beef in intensity, its cracklings on the other hand, are incredibly potent and explosive.  …these itty bitty fragments of fat caramelize and crisps into powerful flavor pellets where bright rays of chickeny-ness are released when crunched through in your mouth.  “

There are many reasons, perhaps good reasons, why humans can’t seem to shake the global spell of beef burgers even in the wake of the negative effect of raising cattle has on climate change.  We as a remarkable species have never backed down from the challenge of a good self-destruction, let alone that in this rare instance, it isn’t absolutely senseless.

For one, out of the few domesticated livestocks we grow for meats, beef, seems to persistently transcend in the robustness of aroma and flavors when its proteins and fats undergo the maillard reaction of browning.  In plain English, meats taste good, but beef seems to taste best.  Secondly, it’s hard to go to a supermarket without bathing in the seduction of see-through packaged ground beef sold in wide open isles in bulk at a reasonable pricing.  Gushing and bloody, they are everywhere at anytime in close proximity where carnivores in practice or in relapses lurk.  Urge plus convenience, its recipe for success isn’t exactly a mystery.  And that is because, last but not least, beef is big money.  It is a hundreds of billions of dollars industry globally, with none other than USA leading the parade as the biggest beef producer followed by countries like Brazil, China, Argentina and Australia.  It doesn’t take a meat eater to explain.  A Buddhist economist could tell you why beef burger is one of the most successful American cultural exports.  Money money money.  Money.

When short-term pleasure is weighed against long-term peril, we humans can always count on ourselves to make the dumb choice.

That is unless, there is a feasible alternative.

No, I’m not talking lab-grown beef, not that it isn’t a promising and totally totally appetizing candidate.  I mean who wouldn’t be aroused by meat grown in a petri-dish?  No, today I want to focus on an option that has long been right in front of our eyes, that can compete in the convenience as well as economic viability of beef.  One that has been overlooked not for lacking in any of the above reasons, but simply because it hasn’t been thought of that way.

Ground chicken.

Before you leave the building, I’d like to shout as loud as I can that I’m not talking about store-bought ground chicken which you only ingested in a terminal stage before you reach the great beyond and reborn as a robotic calories calculator.  The difference between that ground chicken and my ground chicken is the single most under-valued asset of this noble bird, its secret weapon, its Trudeau’s hair.  Anyone who has ever rendered their own schmaltz, aka chicken grease, would know whole-heartedly of what I am about to unveil.  For everybody else, I’m talking about, the chicken skins.

Pork has chicharrón, and chicken has what I’d like to call, chicken cracklings.  It is the crispy remnant of an animal’s fatty mass – in this case the chicken skins – after its moisture and liquid grease is extracted by heat in a process called rendering, leaving behind tiny nuggets of crispy and golden browned brittles if you will, that is an intense condensation of flavors and aromas of its formal self.  But the wonder of chicken is that, even though the meat lags behind pork and beef in intensity, its cracklings on the other hand, are incredibly potent and explosive.  When properly mixed into the ground chicken for the purpose of a flat disk where contact surface area with the hot skillet is maximized, these itty bitty fragments of fat caramelize and crisps into powerful flavor pellets where bright rays of chickeny-ness are released when crunched through in your mouth.  I’m not saying it’s the same as a beef burger.  I’m saying it’s not but equally satisfying.  I crave one just now.

But a perfect burger is not just the patties.  Far from it.  The delicate balance between the texture of the buns, the ratio between components and flavors, sometimes perfection requires restraint more than generosity.  I’m a purist when it comes to burgers, especially this burger. The protagonist is the flavor and aroma of rendered chicken skins, and its voice comes through most vividly without distractions of “over-condimentation”. Simple mayonnaise for moisture, mustard for acidity and a single slice of cheese is suffice.  No onions or garlic powder, tomatoes or lettuce, because this burger (or most for that matter) does not benefit from a big party.

Now you can say nah, I prefer a good-old beef burger.  Hey I sometimes do, too.  But I don’t have children and never wanted one so you’re not shitting on my invested future.  Go to town.  But if you have second thoughts on that matter, then give this a try.  A win-win situation is rarely just a burger away.

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Flatten the curve (bird)

”  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can promise you this…  “

I’ve always been an avid campaigner in the flattening of a bird, a process of turning this hopelessly 3-dimensional animal that insists on uneven heat distribution, into a 2-dimensional disk that crisp up indiscriminately across the plane.  Without the technicality of deboning the entire chicken and armed with only a single kitchen shears and a flat skillet, I’m going to show you how to easily de-joint and de-scaffold a bird so that it can achieve an unequivocally crispy and blistered skin-cap on one side, and slow-cooked therefore succulent and unbelievably juicy meat (even the breasts!) on the other.  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can at the very least, promise you that you’ll never want to roast another bird after this.

STEP 1:  You’ll be able to finish this entire process with a kitchen shears.  Remove the wing tips and place the bird with the backbone/spine facing the counter.  Then cut through the breast bone to open the bird up.

STEP 2:  Flip the bird over with the skin-side up, then bend and snap/dislocate the joints that connects the thighs to the backbone/spine by bending the thighs 90 degrees upward.  Flip the bird back now with the skin-side down.  With a kitchen shear, completely cut through the joints that connects the wings to the breast (but have them still attached), then remove the triangular breast-bone as seen in this photo.

STEP 3:  To further flatten the bird, cut along the rib cage to separate it from the backbone/spine, then cut through it again somewhere around the mid-point to flatten the natural curvature of the rib cage.  Also cut through the wishbones that connects the shoulder and breast to the rib cage.  Don’t worry, there’s no strict technicality here.  The rule of thumb is disconnect every single joints that holds the bird in shape so that it can be completely opened up and flattened.

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Chicken in hot and sour coconut broth

I made this dish randomly and without aim a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d share it.

Despite its gentle-mannered appearance, this soup will slap you out of your winter slumber if you so underestimate it.  Marinated and crispy-browned chickens in an aromatic Thai-style coconut broth that is almost too sour, almost too spicy, almost too salty that the corners of my jaws received it just as much as my tongue.  But only almost almost almost, because in the end I realized I couldn’t stop drinking it, this warming dish that sits right at the spearhead of all the sensations that our tastebuds could withstand and lingers there.

I know you’d love it, too.  That’s all.

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Broken rice crispy crust and chicken cutlets

”  A crust that is both crispy and airy, with a exceptionally craggy surface that foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  “

Amongst fried foods enthusiasts, the quest to find the perfect breading, never ends.  Often times either thin but un-impactful, or substantial but too heavy, the delicate balance in a perfect breading, or shall we say “crust”, is elusive and ever-changing.

But today, I feel as if I had come to a near conclusion that seems to suggest that the search is over.  A breading that leads to a crust that is both crispy and airy, but more importantly, stays crispy and airy, where its exceptionally craggy surface foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  Large and small puffy crunches that are light, spontaneous, and almost lacelike.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, the broken rice crispy crust.

Yes, rice crispy, the juvenile cereal, the cereal that nobody actually eats on its own, the cereal that only finds life’s meanings in a tightly compressed square jammed with marshmallow and butter, the cereal that, even then, is promptly rejected by the first sign of puberty and any desire to get laid in the years that follow.  Yes, that rice crispy.  That rice crispy has been dying to reinvent itself and think outside its sad box.  And now reinvent itself, without a doubt, it has.  It’s almost as if it was born to do this, to fill in the gaps between the inadequacies of flours and breadcrumbs, to become the unsung hero.  The new it-crust.

Now it would be a crime to confine its new found purpose on not just chicken cutlets.  Think chicken popcorns, pork cutlets, chicken fried steak, fried fish, shrimps, or anything that welcomes a good deep fry and a glass of beer.

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Book Bait: The Hulk, Dry-fried Green Hot Wings

WHAT:  In a shameless campaign to drum up anticipation for our upcoming cookbook, The Art of Escapism Cooking – A Survival Story, today I am launching a new recipe series with a very self-serving, absolutely no-good intent.  Lady and gentlemen, may I present to you, The Book BaitWhat are book baits you ask.  Well, they are brand new recipes that are not in the cookbook but however, in order to make them, you will need an essential component from the book to complete which, yes, is not yet published until October 15, 2019.  And yes, I am willing to do that to you to sell books.

WHY:  Aside from the main motive to get you to pre-order the book (and you can do it here, here and here!), the inspiration for creating this recipe series – if there is still room for this argument – is not entirely corrupt.  There is a chapter inside the book called Condiments, consisting of sauces and spice-mixtures that are used more than once throughout the book.  But since the wrapping-up of the book, I continued to unearth new and exciting ways to utilize them that are too good to be left unbothered.  Which brings us to today’s subject, Fried Chili Verde Sauce.

HOW:  If I could put this green chili sauce in every recipe in the book, I would.  It’s a smooth, creamy almost, and fiercely fragrant puree made from green cayenne peppers that are cooked down, intensified, consummated.  It packs such a pronounced profile of that savory, mouthwatering pepperiness that so many other chili sauces strive for but fall miserably short on, with just enough heat to break a mist of sweat on your forehead without burning your hair off.  It sparkles as a supporting role in a small dollop but ultimately, can and should carry a dish as the main storyteller in a recipe such as this.

I call it, The Hulk, semi-butterflied dry-fried wings lathered in a fiery green hot puree with fried chili verde sauce as the base, and several varieties of green herbs to bring a grassy, fragrant, complex flavor profile to the overall, painfully pleasurable experience.  The butter that is traditionally mixed into other hot wing recipes, is replaced by my extra-brown browned butter that is poured on ruthlessly at the end, humming its respective tune in this crispy, spicy, creamy and finger-licking chorus.

You probably want this immediately.  I mean I certainly want it again since yesterday.  But if someone is making you wait five weeks… well, that’s just mean.

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How to make perfectly butterflied and crispy skillet chicken

While I try to concentrate on cookbook post-editing…

Let’s talk simple geometry here.

A bird is a three-dimensional object.  The surface of a skillet is a two-dimensional plane.

How do we warp a three-dimensional object for it to make perfectly parallel contact with a two-dimensional plane, in the explicit interest of a chicken, creating that impeccably even, blistered and crispy skin?  Aside from the fact that it’s super fun, of course (it is).

Here’s how.

Plus a five-minutes pan sauce too delicious for its simplicity.

Ate this two days in a row and counting.

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KHAO SOI NEUA/BEEF

KHAO SOI HAPPENS TO HAVE THE RIGHT BALANCE OF BOTH EXOTICISM AND SAFETY IN THE EYE OF A CAUTIOUSLY CURIOUS BACKPACKER.

Scad has been said about khao soi on the internet — some well-informed and some, not so much — so I think I will not bother.  It’s possibly the most famous dish from Northern Thailand, a somehow debatable status in my view.  Being back from a quick trip in Chiangmai Thailand, the capital of khao soi, I’m attempted to assume that its popularity among foreigners is contributed to its relatively benign characteristics if compared to the other more “adventurous” yet far more stunning dishes the region has to offer.  Khao soi, being chicken or beef in coconut curry with egg noodles, happens to have the right balance of both exoticism and safety in the eye of a cautiously curious backpacker.  It certainly isn’t, by far, the best thing we’ve tasted on this trip.  But I’ve always wanted to formulate a khao soi recipe after I’ve actually tried it at its source, so here it is.

Pushing it further on its muslim Chinese origin, I’m replacing dried chilis with Sichuan douban chili paste for a more complexed flavor, as well as inviting the mild tinge of numbness and floral quality from Sichuan peppercorns.  Another trick is to dial down on the amount of coconut milk in the broth itself so it can be reintroduced again right before serving, increasing depth and layers of flavors as how it is done in some of the better khao soi restaurants we’ve encountered.  In a bit of a disagreement with the blunt, under-processed pickled mustard greens that are often mindlessly chopped and scattered in the noodle as a failing contrasting agent, I’m replacing it with pan-fried pickled caperberries that provides sharp pops of sourness and complexity.  Then last but not least, a reminder of Sichuan peppercorns in the topical chili paste to bring it all together.

Enjoy.

 

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THE INCREDIBLE CHICKEN TOFU – FROM THE MIND OF A CHEF

TENDER EDIBLE CLOUDS MADE WITH CHICKEN BREASTS?!!  WHAT IS THIS WIZARDRY, DANNY?!

Holy shit, did you watch Season Six of Mind of a Chef with Danny Bowien from Mission Chinese Food?

Did you see where his mentor Yu Bo, in episode two, turned a puddle of pink chicken-slush into pillows of fluffy-looking curds, something they call, chicken tofu?!

Did you gush outloud, tender edible clouds made with chicken breasts?!!  No special curd-forming acid or salt required, virtually fat-free, and answers the prayers of millions of suffering souls of how to triple the volume of two pieces of chicken breasts without adding much more calories, but more importantly, transforming its woodsy nature into custardy, melt-in-your-mouth, weightless pillows of savory delights?!!!

Did you close your eyes and imagine exhaustively of what it’s like to cuddle the impossibly light and quilted bodies in between your tongues, a dream that feels unreal but known to be true?!!

Did you marvel?!

Did you cry?!

Did you say oh please baby Jesus dear Lordy, can someone please tell me how this wizardry is performed?!!

Well, guess what, you’re welcome.

And the spicy version drenched in chili oil, you’re double welcome.

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