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April 07, 2011

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:


Using my immersion blender for about a minute, I broke down the truffles even further, and made sure they were fully incorporated into the water:

I placed the lid on the pressure cooker, aligning the narrow, oval, etched icon on the lid with the center of the pot handle:DSC_0002

I twisted the lid's handle to the left to lock it into place, aligning both handles:

I pushed the purple slider up toward the yellow button to lock the lid into place:

I turned the dial on the handle to the closed-pot icon:

Then, I turned the heat on medium-low to bring the liquid to a simmer:

When the yellow pressure indicator popped up...

I lowered the flame...DSC_0002

I let it simmer like that for 30 minutes.  When the 30 minutes was up, I turned off the burner... 

Turned the dial to the "release steam" icon:

Then, after about 10 minutes, the yellow pressure indicator had gone back down: 

...which meant I could push the purple slider back down, to unlock the pot lid (sorry for the blursies):DSC_0002

I rotated the lid to the right...

I removed the lid and released the most amazing aroma of truffle stock:

I poured the contents of the pot into a bowl nested in a larger bowl of ice, to cool it a bit:
Then, I poured all the liquid (and truffle bits) into a jar and stored in the fridge for a few days:DSC_0001

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.

I poured the reduced mushroom stock through a cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer into a bowl nested in a larger bowl of ice so it would cool a bit:

After it had cooled completely, I poured it into a jar and kept it in the fridge until the next day when I was ready to use it to finish the dish.


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:

With the heat on low (a 2 out of 10), I cooked the skin, turning it and moving it around to ensure it was evenly browned... which took about 25 minutes:

I removed the skin from the pan and placed it on a cutting board, where I finely minced it, seasoned it with salt, and placed it on a few layers of paper towels so it could drain for about 3 hours:

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 added the salt to the chicken+duck fat, and slowly poured it all into the maltodextrin, whisking as I went, until it yielded a really nice, silky powder:

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:



I put the toasted slices into my food processor to crumb them:

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. 

I finely minced 10g of black truffle and spread the pieces on multiple layers of paper towel to drain and dry.

I ground some freeze-dried sweet corn in my spice grinder to turn it into powder:


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:

I mixed these ingredients together and hand-formed little nuggets, placed them each on a spoon atop a small blob of the poo-looking truffle purée, and topped them with some more fresh thyme leaves:

My neighbors came over, and looked at the bites with some hesitation.

"What's this called," asked one of them.

"Chicken skin,' I replied.

She winced.

"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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Carol - similar fears and in fact my grandmother's pressure cooker did explode but no harm to her! She reserved her "kitchen nightmare" by losing her eyebrows by an oven incident.

I agree that some people just don't get or accept the whole goodness that is 'skin' - chicken, turkey it doesn't matter - it is all good!

Now I'm hungry!

Ok, I love chicken skin, and this sounds like an entire country dinner (chicken skin, corn, truffle poo) in one little nubbin. So I love it.

And I also love that it's made me remember our high school's French exchange student, Boris, who shocked the hell out of a friend of mine, and then asked "do you 'ave zee cheek-on skeen?" in a voice that was somewhere between leering and compassionate.

Why, oh WHY, can't I be your neighbor to taste these incredible dishes you make?!?!


Ditto on the "why can't I be your neighbor comment, I love to try new and interesting food preparations.

I've heard the pressure cooker horror stories from my mother and grandmother, then I ignored them and started canning with a pressure cooker. I think the newer pressure cookers have more safety features.


That dish sounds so incredibly delicious and, honestly, who doesn't like chicken skin? I buy skin-on boneless chicken breasts just to get that good stuff.

I am a pressure cooker wimp. I just remember my mother's cooker with the thingy on the top that wobbled and it scared the bejeesus out of me. Obviously the whole operation has been improved and I may need to get one. I really want a bite of that chicken stuff, poo and all. Now.

I *love* chicken skin. I know it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but frankly, I don't care. The salty, fatty, crispiness is heaven in your mouth, and this really looks delicious.

A word on pressure cookers: my mother bought me an electronic pressure cooker this past Christmas, and I use it nearly every week. It's not nearly as freaky as the one my grandmother used. (She used to banish us to the backyard if we were visiting while she was using it!) It isn't very noisy, either.

The one I have is a Cook's Essentials from QVC, but I think a lot of other companies are now making them, too. Plus, it sets on the counter, and frees up the stovetop.

1. I am afraid of accidentally running over people in crosswalks even when my foot is firmly on the brake (what if a destructive impulse takes over?).
2. Chicken skin. I have not roasted a chicken below 500 degrees and butterflied in five years (thank you Cooks Illustrated), but even then, a tiny tidbit is all I can take.
3. I use pressure cookers a lot because I love beans and get out of school (work) at 3:30, so to cook dinner at six, that's my only option. They don't scare me anymore. Ignorance? Optimism? Can't say.
4. Kinda wanted a picture of the poo mixture because that's the only way I keep my kids interested in cooking. Poo and boogers.

Huh. This looks good, even though I'm a strong vegetarian, which I guess must mean it's pretty good. Anyhow, thanks for posting, and good luck with the government shutdown, since apparently some people don't want to just average 30 and 60.

I love chicken skin - crisp and hot and peeled off a not-so-noticeable section of the bird as it's carved... I'm still getting over the idea of eating it pulverized with a bunch of other things (that I also like). Is the texture weird?

On a completely separate note - I've been following your musical sections for quite some time (most of which are completely me), and I'd like to recommend that you check out Panic! at the Disco's new album Vices & Virtues. (I have no affiliation with this group in any way except that I've been playing this album over so many times that I think I hear it when I'm sleeping.)

Do I get credit for having my first pressure cooker explode, but still being brave enough to use the newfangled one with safety features? (no making fun of my disfiguring facial scars)

Cool! Having cooked such a recipe with black truffles is just like making one of the most expensive dishes in the world! Thanks for posting this and all my best to you in your endeavor with the government shutdown. There sure are a lot better ahead.

I sutmbled on your blog looking fro pressure cooking recipes and I found ... this!

Wow. What an undertaking. will be going through your archives to see what else you've got cooking.

If you ever get a pressure cooker come visit my blog -- I wrote a series of recipes called "Beginner Basiscs" to teach common pressure cooking techniques.

For example, next time you make truffle stock (I'm just sayin' there could be a next time, right?) I would release the pressure using the "cold water quick-rlease method" instead of releasing all of the vaporized truffle into the air of your kitchen, the "quick release "condenses the vapor under the top, and drips it back into the stock - even MORE flavor!



Re Irrational fears - my fiance used to lay in bed as a child, too scared to sleep because she was afraid of asteroids and aneurysms. It cracks me up.

Good post, thanks.

The skin is the best part on a fowl. Ahhh, crispy skin of a duck breast, the turkey skin (with bacon on it) at Christmas and of course roasted chicken.
I have never used a pressure cooker and it's one of the things I'm interested in trying in the kitchen. Would you happen to know the make of your friend's cooker? Thanks.

That looks great, I might have to try this one out sometime.
I too was afraid of pressure cookers after growing up with the old Presto model, rocking valve and all. The new fangled ones are creepily quiet after that.

Blackout was a fantastic album. Femme Fatale was so bad that it made me cry. I've been a Britney lover ever since Baby One More Time, and it really hurt to admit to myself that her new album really wasn't that good. All her old stuff is awesome, though. I totally don't judge you.

Oh yeah...the chicken skin looks AMAZING.

So with you on the chicken skin. It's 10:15 PM here in Cali and I'm ready for my second dinner after reading your post. Sometimes buckwheat groats don't cut it.... :( Truffles also kick everyone's ass. Like a million times over.

So I just want to know if you will get to dine at Next Restaurant.

[Greg -- Nope. Not for the Paris menu. Gluten is not listed among the allergies/disorders they're able to accommodate, so it's a no-go for me. Fingers crossed that there'll be a future menu I can try. :) ------CB]

So as for the irrational fear of having your front teeth knocked out on stairs, its honestly not too bad. I had it happen to me as a kid. A few crowns and veneers later no one is the wiser. ;-)

I tend to carry a fork in my mouth whenever I carry food from room to room and my hands are full. I am always afraid that I am going to fall and successfully jam the fork right into my brain. To each his own I guess. :-p

I share (2) and (5)... and (6) is not unfounded - my grandma had a pressure cooker explode on her on Christmas one year, and had severe burns on her chest.

My real question: how was the truffle substitute? I've been considering what to do for a tasting of potatoes w/ truffles from TFLC. I just don't know that I can spring for 4 oz. of truffles for stock (especially since - hangs head in shame - I don't even really like truffled things that much). Canned seems like a more economically viable alternative, although I don't want to kill the dish.

[The canned summer truffles worked really nicely. While I love truffles, sometimes the real thing can be overpowering and can overtake a dish. The canned ones I bought from D'Artagnan were really nice and did the trick. ----CB]

Carol, if you haven't, you need to pick up a copy of the Ideas in Food book. The section on pressure cookers is enlightening. Their methods for quick, pressure-cooked "micro-stocks" just like this truffle stock, coupled with their brilliant 6 minute risotto method, are remarkable, and reason enough to run out and get your own pressurized culinary death machine.

Culinary Death Machine would make a sweet name for a band....

Well of course the skin on the chicken is the very best part and anything with truffles, even if it bears a striking resemblance to poo, is still going to catch my fancy.

Ps. I'm always afraid that the string from the tea bag will get seized in the garbage disposal and the staple will fly up and blind me and yet I still do it sometimes just to feel dangerous.
Just thought I'd share that.

Ooo, I love chicken skin... and truffles, the little I've ever had of those... Probably none left over, eh?

Thank you for the pictorial on the pressure cooker as, in addition to rats, snakes and large pieces of overcooked zucchini, I fear pressure cookers. I also struggle with how to photograph delicious food that, through no fault of its own, looks like poo (Hello, garlic roasted chicken with barley and wild mushroom risotto for which I had no garnish and Photoshop'd parsley bits just didn't work!)

As for the dish? It sounds (and looks) fantastic!

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