Monday, December 15, 2008

Give Me Some Skin Big Ganny

During the first 20 years of my life I never encountered a boneless, skinless chicken breast.

When I was a child, all chicken came under cellophane with bone and skin attached. The drumstick, the breast, the thigh, and even the wing, all had skin and bones. That’s the way God intended chicken to be sold and fried. Read it, it’s in the Bible somewhere. I think in one of those obscure Old Testament chapters like Amos or Obadiah.

True story: The first time I ever saw a boneless skinless chicken offering, I was at a restaurant on a date. The girl I was with asked, "How do they walk around without any bones, and don't they get cold without any skin?" For the record, she wasn't blonde, but she was very, very pretty.

I was having dinner with a group last week when a friend posed the question: "Where do you suppose they are hiding all of that chicken skin?"

It was a good question. There's so much boneless, skinless chicken being sold, they've got to be storing all of that skin somewhere. The skin is the best-tasting part. It truly is— crunchy, crispy, salt-and-pepper laden, tasty chicken skin. It’s the greatest component of fried chicken.

In the poultry section at my local grocery store, I conducted an extremely scientific survey which proved that 47.62% of chicken available for sale is sold without bones and skin. Which means almost half of the world’s chicken skin is just hanging around the butcher department in limbo, lonely, and without a mission.

Restaurants whose primary offering is fried boneless, skinless chicken breast strips are popping up all over the place. They’re the “in” thing with teenagers and twentysomethings. I don’t want to eat a chicken’s fingers and I certainly don’t want to eat his nuggets. I demand skin on my chicken and I want dark meat, too. Where has all of the dark meat gone? I want dark meat. I want it to have skin and bones, and I want it now.

Save me the but-all-of-the-fat-is-in-the-skin argument. Most people who are eating fast food don't give a rooster's beak about fat. How does one explain 15 years of chicken strip-only restaurants and 60 years of Baskin Robbins? The Baskin Robbins Heath Bar Shake has 2,300 calories and 108 grams of fat! Trust me, fat is not an issue in that segment of the restaurant biz.

I want to open a restaurant that serves only fried chicken skin. Of course there will have to be some type of sauce to dip the fried chicken skin into— comeback sauce (the ultimate condiment)— and two side orders. No fries or cole slaw like the traditional chicken strip places. How about tater tots and applesauce? Granted, applesauce isn’t very popular and doesn't fit in with the concept, but I like applesauce, and, after all, it's my fried chicken-skin restaurant, isn’t it.

I once knew a lady whose grandchildren called her "Big Ganny," no "r" just Ganny. She made excellent fried chicken, yet the only part of the chicken her grandchildren would eat was the skin. Smart kids. "Give me some skin Big Ganny," they would say. I think I'll call my fried chicken-skin concept Big Ganny's Chicken Skin Palace.

And after I open Big Ganny’s Chicken Skin Palace, I’m going after Hooters. I will open a chain of restaurants which serve only spicy Buffalo chicken thighs with the skin on. I’ll call the place Buffalo Thighs. Or maybe I’ll purchase land across the street from Hooters and hire a lot of diminutively chested waitresses and call it Peepers. Equal time for all, I say.

Either way, I’ll be serving my bird with the skin on. It’s the best-tasting part. The rest just tastes like chicken.

Chicken Jambalaya

2 pounds andouille sausage, or any mild smoked pork sausage, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
3 pounds chicken thigh meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 TBL Creole seasoning
2 cups yellow onion, medium dice
1 1/2 cups celery, medium dice
1 1/2 cup green bell pepper, medium dice

2 TBL fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp dry thyme
3 bay leaves
1 pound long grain rice
1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 TBL Worcestershire sauce
1 TBL hot sauce
1 quart + 1 cup chicken broth, heated
1 Tbl kosher salt

Heat a large heavy duty cast iron skillet or Dutch oven (2-gallon capacity) on high heat.
Place the sausage in the hot skillet and brown it evenly. Stir often to prevent burning. When the sausage is browned, carefully remove the excess fat. Season the chicken with the Creole seasoning and add it to the skillet, cooking it in the remaining sausage fat (you might need to add a little Canola oil). Brown the chicken evenly and cook it for 20 minutes. Add in the onion, celery and bell pepper and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add in the garlic, thyme and bay leaves and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice grains are hot. Add in the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and chicken broth. Stir the mixture well to prevent the rice from clumping together. Lower the heat until the Jambalaya is just barely simmering and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.

Yield: 12-14 servings

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