July 26, 2011

Chicken Gold

This isn't a recipe, it's...well, it's kind of a secret. But, oh! It shouldn't be! It didn't used to be.

This is the dripping from a roast chicken. I roast my chickens in a cast iron skillet, and after the chicken comes out of the pan to rest (before carving), there's a lot of fatty liquid left behind. After the chicken has rested, and been carved, and after dinner has been finished and the plates cleared away, I do two things:

1) I take any remaining chicken meat off of the bones, and stash it in the fridge for future uses (I usually have at least a couple already in mind). The bones themselves generally go in the freezer, wrapped, to make chicken stock, if I have the room to store them.

2) I pour the liquid from under the chicken (on its carving plate) into a small, lidded container, and pour the dripping from the skillet on top of that.

The container sits innocuously on the counter until I have finished cleaning the skillet and tidying up, and by then the liquid will have magically separated out into the two layers you can (kind of) see above. I put a lid on it, label it with a sticky note, and pop it into the fridge.

Within a couple of hours, the fatty layer, which has risen to the top, becomes solid. This can be scraped off and discarded, if you are the sort of person who is frightened of a little chicken fat, or it can be used culinarily to make the best darn stew-dumplings you've ever had, or to roast up a gorgeous pan of Brussels sprouts, or even simply to fry up potatoes. But I digress. The fat is a valuable culinary ingredient, although I know not everyone in this fat-wary age is inclined to make use of it.

Underneath that layer of fat, however, is the true chicken gold. This is the distilled chickeny goodness that contains a wonderfully dense chicken flavour, as well as a rich, collagen-heavy texture. It sets up like aspic and, since the fat has risen to the surface where it can be removed, it is virtually fat free.

Think of it as a sort of chicken demi-glace. You can add it to darn near anything that needs a little punch of chicken flavour. You can save several chickens' worth and make the best chicken gravy you can possibly imagine (great with fried chicken), or dole it out by the spoonful to add a little fabulous to each soup, stew or pot pie. Diluted with a little water, it makes a beautiful, cloudless chicken broth.

Most excellently, you don't have to use it up all that promptly. The fat perfectly seals in the chicken gold and protects it from freezer burn as you stack up the little containers in the freezer (assuming you haven't just decided to use it the very next night). Once frozen, you can also slice the fatty part away from the concentrated juices, but I find it easier to just let it defrost, and scrape away as needed.

Even a generic, supermarket-type of chicken gives off excellent chicken gold, but it you go the extra mile and get a tasty organic or naturally raised bird, the results can be truly exceptional. Don't let it go to waste: you'd be pouring gold into the trash bin.


greenbusinessonly said...

A truly informative post buddy… Thanks a lot. Never knew about this fat free dense chicken flavor that can be extracted and used so well. I am sure to try it.

sandy axelrod said...

A perfect example of "waste not want not" as any chef worth his/her salt knows. Your title says it perfectly. These items are as valuable to cooking as gold is to our treasury. Maybe even more valuable these days.