Some months ago I wrote about the contents of my freezer, listing among them chicken skins. Someone asked me in the comments if they were for my cats. I felt too sheepish to answer. The truth is, I don't have any cats, and if I did, I would certainly not share the chicken skin with them. I could have shouted it out from the rooftops, though, because it seems chicken skin is The New Bacon.
Cooked chicken skin can be flabby, slippery and rather gross. Even if you take care to brown your chicken pieces, after braising the whole thing goes soft, and what's the point of that? I don't usually bother to brown anything, anyway. And please, don't talk to me about Maillard reaction. Bla bla bla whatever.
I cook chicken without the skin, at least for everyday chicken things like rice or soups or a sandwich. But because I now live the suburban life of the supermarket chicken thigh package, I have had to learn how to deal with the skin myself. A deft pull and you have your skinless thigh. A few inept wiggles and cuts and it is now boneless.
The meat for whatever dish I'm making, the bones for stock, and the skin? It pains me to say that I used to toss it. No longer.
Now the skin goes, salted and cut into small strips, into a non-stick pan on a low flame. And if you have one of those things that look like the child of a strainer and a ping-pong paddle, put it over.
Leave it on its own while you make whatever else you're making. It starts to change colour, spitting a little, shrivelling and crisping and after a few more minutes and a bit of turning becomes crunchy and golden and irresistible. Properly irresistible. It is the most delicious thing, and I can't think of any chicken dish it doesn't improve. Sandwiches, soups, noodles, rice, anything, really.
If you don't want to use it right away you can leave it in the fridge, and use it to enliven leftovers. My favourites: crisp some to crumble over soups of the heartier variety, like black beans.
Let them cook til golden and use the rendered fat to cook fried rice, or to make a hash with cooked potatoes, or for the most heavenly ropa vieja.
Add them to poached chicken for the whole foods, beak-to-tail answer to the Club Sandwich.
You can think of it as kosher chicharrones and serve it as a snack, but that is something I have never got round to. To me, they are simply a very handy way to make sure that I have the best of both worlds, crisp chicken skin and juicy, flavourful meat.