Dec 5 2009

Crispy Fried Chicken Skin

December 5th, 2009 at 11:03 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Our stand-up freezer stopped freezing sometime in the last 20 hours, so we found ourselves performing freezer food triage earlier today. Fortunately we have a couple of refrigerator/freezer units still functioning in the house, so key frozen meats and other frozen products could be kept ice hard.

However, we did find there wasn’t quite enough space for everything, so in addition to feasting on now thawing left-overs tomorrow, we enjoyed a special treat tonight – Crispy Fried Chicken Skin.

We discovered a couple of months ago that our butcher simply throws out the chicken skin from thighs and breasts when packaging meat for retail sale. What a waste. So we kept a stash of chicken skin in vacuum sealed bags in our now malfunctioning freezer.

As long time fans of pork rinds (zero carbohydrates, and only saturated animal fats if prepared right), chicken skin ranks right up there for us. When fried correctly, chicken skin is like great popcorn – a nice crunch, a bit of greasiness, and a lot of satisfaction in both taste and emotion, but none of the carbs. Ignore the misguided advice to have fat-less (and thus bland and dry) chicken, and instead enjoy the skin, if you can find a good source for it.

Frying up chicken skin is incredibly easy. Get out your deep fat fryer, and turn on high (450 degrees Fahrenheit on the model I use). If your frying temperature is too low, the chicken skin ends up very chewy, so fry at a high temperature.

Cut your chicken skins into small pieces (I find one inch squares to be a good size), and once the oil is at full heat, put the skin in the fryer. Stir a bit to make sure your skins cook separately instead of in a large chunk.

After about 4-6 minutes you should see the skins browning and losing their rubbery textures. Remove from the hot oil onto a plate with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil. Lightly salt with your favorite seasoned salt (I use Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning Рlove that stuff). Let the hot skins sit for a few minutes to allow retained moisture to evaporate, and to let the skins cool down enough to safely eat. Then enjoy.

Crispy Chicken Skin at Kori & Fay in Berlin, Germany

Crispy Chicken Skin at Kori & Fay in Berlin, Germany

I will note that several Asian restaurants I’ve eaten at offer crispy chicken skin on their menus as well. I have had it Yakitori-style (grilled on a skewer) at Japanese restaurants in New York and San Francisco, and most recently in a spicy sauce in Berlin at Kori & Fay (see picture above).


Dec 1 2009

Spicy Green Beans

December 1st, 2009 at 4:18 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I’ve always had a special place in my heart (or is it my stomach?) for Asian foods, whether it be Korean BBQ, Thai curries, Japanese sashimi and Shabu-Shabu, Taiwanese pork intestines, or most anything from the Hunan or Szechuan provinces of China.

Since moving to Bonaire over 12 years ago, I’ve also discovered foods and ingredients with an Indonesian background. That’s because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, and Indonesians have become an integral part of Dutch society, including the Dutch Antilles, which is where Bonaire fits into the Dutch Kingdom.

Among my favorite Indonesian ingredients to cook with are Ketjap Manis and Sambal Oelek.

Ketjap, also known as Kecap or Ketsap, refers to a sauce used for cooking or as a condiment. You may note the similarity to the English word Ketchup (or “Catsup”, as it was originally known). Indonesian Ketjap is soy-based, with Ketjap Asin (Asian Ketchup) being what we know as regular soy sauce, and Ketjap Manis being a sweet, thicker soy sauce. “Manis” means sweet in Indonesian.

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Thus, Ketjap Manis is a sweet soy sauce. You can simulate ketjap manis using regular soy sauce and cooking it with brown sugar and molasses as well, although I find authentic Ketjap Manis to still be better (and easier) to use than concocting something similar out of regular soy sauce. There’s a certain texture and flavor that Ketjap Manis imparts to foods that is tough to match.

Sambal refers to a family of condiments which contain spicy chili peppers. Sambal Manis, for example, is a pepper relish which is sweet and spicy. I have also tried Sambal Badjak, Sambal Brandal, and Sambal Oelek. Some sambals are made with fish paste or vinegar or tomatoes. The one I tend to see in greatest quantity, however, is Sambal Oelek (also spelled Ulek), which is spicier and has a bit of extra saltiness (at least the brand I use).

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

I’ve always been a fan of spice, and discovering sambals in all forms and flavors was a real treat.

All this brings me to the fact that if you combine sambal oelek and ketjap manis, you get a great spicy-sweet soy-based sauce which is great as a marinade or even a cooking sauce. (Note: It makes a great rib marinade!)

And that in turn brings me to today’s incredibly easy recipe (providing you have a source for ketjap manis and sambal oelek) – spicy green beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 cup of ketjap manis
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Nip off the hard end bits of the green beans and put the resulting green beans aside (and throw out the hard end bits, of course).
  • Heat the peanut oil (or use another nut oil like sunflower or canola) in a large sauce pan on medium high heat – the purpose of this oil it merely to lubricate the pan and beans a bit.
  • Add the green beans and let sizzle for a minute or two.
  • Add the water – this will help cook the beans a little more thoroughly via steam. The water should ultimately all boil off.
  • Once the water is mostly gone, add the garlic and sambal oelek and stir them to thoroughly mix them with the green beans.
  • Add the ketjap manis and stir some more.
  • Cook until the ketjap manis starts to bubble and caramelize.
  • At this point your green beans should still be cooked but not mushy. If you like mushy green beans, turn down the heat and cook longer (perhaps adding a bit more water).
  • Remove from heat and serve.

To make more spicy add more sambal oelek. To make less spicy, add less.

Serve hot either as a main dish or as a side dish with other Asian-themed food. If you like the flavor of soy as well as that of spicy peppers you should truly enjoy this dish. The sweetness of the ketjap manis provides a great counterpoint to the salty-spice of the rest of the dish, and slightly crisp green beans enhance the dish further with their texture