Chicken Skin, black truffle, thyme, corn
Things I am (irrationally) afraid of:
1) Tripping up cement or stone steps and landing on my face, knocking out my front teeth;
2) Tearing off my hand in the garbage disposal, even if I'm in another room and nowhere near the kitchen sink;
3) Drowning (despite the fact that I'm an excellent swimmer);
4) Opening the hood of my car;
5) Snakes; and
6) That a pressure cooker will blow up, leaving me with disfiguring facial burns.
I know from corresponding with many of you over the years that I'm not alone in my pressure cooker heebie-jeebies. I've used one from time to time, and it's not like I'm paralyzed by fear (like I am with all the other things on the list) when I look at a pressure cooker, but it's just not something I have ever 100% felt safe using.
So, I borrowed my friend, Linda's, pressure cooker for this recipe, and asked her to give me a tutorial to make me feel more comfortable having it in my house. Her explanation was clear and simple, and allayed my worries enough to actually allow that pot into my house. In case you're a secret-scaredy-cat like me, I'll show you how easy it is to use through some photos below. And, I'm happy to say that after using the pressure cooker to make the truffle stock for this dish, I can finally remove this fear from my scary, scary list. I used it. It did not blow up. I did not die. I did not even get a little bit burnt. Success!
To make the truffle stock, I used D'Artgnan's canned summer black truffles. I did this for two reasons:
1) black truffles aren't in season anymore; and
2) even if they were in season, the pricetag for the vast amount of truffles needed for this dish would have been more than $300 for such a small yield in the final product, that I couldn't justify the spend.
To start the truffle stock, I put just over 200g of chopped black truffles into the pressure cooker with 2000g water:
The day before I was going to serve this dish, I made the mushroom stock. Into a large stock pot went mushrooms, carrots, and onion (which I'd chopped up pretty well in my food processor), along with some parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and water:
I brought it to a boil, then simmered it for just over 45 minutes, skimming off the foam from the top every 10 minutes or so. I strained it through a fine-mesh strainer (and discarded the solids) into a clean stock pot...
... then reduced it by half over medium heat (a little-more-than-gentle simmer), which took about an hour.
The next morning, I rendered the fat from 150g of chicken skin (which, for your reference, is all the skin from a 4-pound chicken) and crisped the skin. I put the skin into a sauté pan with some slightly smashed garlic cloves and thyme:
I discarded the garlic and thyme, and poured the chicken fat into a small bowl to weigh it so I could use it in the next element of the dish: chicken fat powder. The recipe calls for 40g of chicken fat, but my chicken skin only yielded 22 grams of fat, so I augmented it with 18g of duck fat (which I always have in the fridge or freezer). I also weighed 20g of tapioca maltodextrin in a separate, larger bowl:
I stored that in a bowl at room temperature on the kitchen counter while I finished prepping the rest of the dish.
Next up? Toasted bread crumbs. I removed the crusts from a few slices of gluten-free sandwich bread, and coated them in a mixture of olive oil, salt, and pepper before toasting them in a 300-degree oven for 25 minutes:
The next thing to make was black truffle purée. Black truffles, black trumpet mushrooms (man, I love those things), mushroom stock, and truffle stock (which I strained before using), and small cubes of Yukon Gold potato into a large sauce pan:
Brought it to a simmer over medium heat and cooked it for about 30 minutes before pouring the contents of the pot into my Vitamix blender and pulverizing it until it was a smooth, deep-dark brown purée. I passed it through a chinois into a bowl, and then transfered a bit of it into a plastic bag that doubled as a pastry bag for piping a dot of it onto the spoon before serving.
There are no photos of this part of the dish, because every photo I took... from every angle.... with every lighting trick in the book... going to great lengths to make it not look like poo... looked like poo. So, I'm sparing you the photos because they were disgusting.
With all the components completed, it was time to roll them all into chicken skin bites. Into the mixing bowl went the minced skin, some chicken fat powder, thyme leaves, corn powder, toasted bread crumbs, and minced truffle:
My neighbors came over, and looked at the bites with some hesitation.
"What's this called," asked one of them.
"Chicken skin,' I replied.
"Can't you just call it 'chicken?' Does it have to be 'chicken skin'," she wondered.
Sigh.... I guess I just don't understand why people don't like (the notion of?) chicken skin. I think it's the best part of the chicken. And, the very idea of chicken skin, truffles, mushroom, and corn makes me really, really hungry. And drooly.
I put the spoon in my mouth and slid it back out, leaving the chicken nugget and truffle purée on my tongue. I chewed, and as it broke down in my mouth, all the flavors opened up, and this comforting sense of umami took over. The texture was really nice -- some definite crisp and chewiness -- and it was a beautifully well-rounded bite. Even though it was made and served at room temperature, it still felt warm.... and almost creamy.
Only one of my tasters didn't like it, but the rest of us gobbled them up. These are chicken nuggets I can get behind. For sure.
NOTE: The winners of the Michael Jackson Wii games and the copies of Chef Achatz's memoir have been selected, and I'm just waiting to hear back from two of the people... so those are spoken for. More giveaways on the way in the coming months! Thanks for being so great about my April Fool's Absence. You guys are THE BEST!
Up Next: Not sure yet; probably something sweet. Gotta get my clients through this government shut-down-lack-of-FY2011-budget nonsense before I tackle another Alinea recipe.
Resources: Chicken skin from a Smith Meadows Farm chicken; produce and aromats from Whole Foods; David's kosher salt; tapioca maltodextrin from L'Epicerie; Just Corn freeze-dried corn; black truffles from D'Artagnan; Udi's white sandwich bread; black trumpet mushrooms from the mushroom lady at the Takoma Park Farmers' Market.
Music to Cook By: Britney Spears; Femme Fatale and Blackout. Do not judge me. Girlfriend's producers can write a mean hook. And, a part of me believes that by listening to her music, I will osmotically have abs that look like hers. Kind of like how I feel like I've totally worked out and am in super-fantastic shape when all I've done is eat a bag of marshmallows while watching P90X videos.
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