10 years ago, cracklins of any sort were relegated to the deep South, including Central and South America and referred specifically to pork skins. I have been crunching on crispy pig skin and belly since I was born. This is one of many reasons I am grateful for being from Colombia. Third world countries were truly ahead of the gourmet curve. We have been eating skin, ears, sweet breads, blood sausage and liver for years. Necessity inspires creativity like nothing else.
10 Points: WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF FRIED OR ROASTED CHICKEN?
ANSWER: Duh, the skin. One time, I was making a fancy dish for some girlfriends that involved braising chicken thighs. I wanted the skins to be crispy, so I decided to roast them separately. Unfortunately, most of the skins went straight into my mouth and never made it onto the dish.
I have made chicken cracklins or chicharrones a few times since then and even posted a pic on Facebook, but I decided that they deserve a post of their own.
If you love Fried chicken or roasted chicken, then free your mind a bit and don’t get skeeved by removing the skins and making precious little crunchy delicacies out of them.
Scroll down to read a snippet about Schmaltz, A.K.A chicken fat, the other unsung hero.
HOW TO MAKE TASTY CHICKEN CHICHARRONES
1. Choose to make a dish containing chicken thighs or breasts. Remove the skins. OR ask your chicken monger if he/she can sell you some skin and if there is a better time to pick it up. Start with good hormone free, free range and fresh skins.
2. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 300 F. Wash the skins and dry them thoroughly. Season with salt and anything else that you think would taste good on something fried and crispy. In the photos shown here, I used Spanish smoked paprika, garlic powder and salt.
3. Place skins on a rack in a cookie sheet. You can probably survive without the rack, but I like rendering out most of the fat so that my skins are super crispy and less deadly. Roast for 40-60 minutes. You can give them a flip half way through if they curl and the fat begins to pool.
4. Serve as an appetizer. If you simply salt and pepper them, you can drizzle with a little lime juice right before serving.
READ ABOUT SCHMALTZ
The word schmaltz as I know it, is Yiddish for “chicken fat”. The origin is also German/Austrian and can mean fat rendered from any animal. Historically, Jews could not use fats derived from pork because it is not kosher and they could not use butter to cook with meats because butter comes from cream that comes from cows and it, well, not kosher either.
I love chicken fat. I don’t scoop it off when I make soups. If you have ever had a great matzo ball soup, the balls probably contained schmalz. The Indians prize their Ghee, clarified butter, the French their duck fat, the Southerners their lard/pork fat and the Jews, their Schmalz. I consider schmalz to be a form of liquid gold.
When American Jews refer to someone as “schmalzy”, it means that they are excessively emotional or sappy. I’m a pretty schmalzy gal.