Don't Wash the Chicken!

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Chicken Liver Pâté
Thaw the livers in the fridge the day before, then drain and pat dry. Trim any green spots or connective tissue. Cook 1/2 medium onion and 1 large garlic clove, both finely chopped, with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a generous pinch of both dried thyme and ground allspice (or clove) in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add livers, and about 6 grinds of fresh black pepper and cook, stirring, until livers are brown on outside but pale pink within—cut a couple open—3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons brandy or bourbon, let it boil about 15 seconds, and remove from heat. Scrape everything into a food processor and puree well, then season with salt and pepper. Spread it in a crock or bowl, and serve warm, or chill it, covering the surface with wax paper and the container with plastic wrap. To serve: Surround pâté with baguette toasts or crackers and have ready some flaky (Maldon) sea salt for that final flourish.

Once this is ingrained into your routine, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start a long time ago. All you need do is collect and freeze carcasses from any roast chickens (even supermarket rotisserie birds), plus any fresh skin and bones you might have. Also freeze the necks, gizzards, and hearts from the giblet packages, and if you see chicken feet, backs, or necks for sale in the market, grab them. The feet, in particular, make a fabulously rich, gelatinous stock.

When you’ve got a decent pile of scraps, parts, skin, and bones, dump them in a pot with a carrot, a celery rib, and a halved onion (the French like to stick a whole clove in one of the onion halves) and cover everything with water. Bring it to a boil and skim the froth. At this point you can add a couple of parsley sprigs with stems and a bay leaf, but it’s not essential. Simmer it, uncovered, for three hours—and don’t feel tied to the kitchen; just check on it occasionally and keep the bones covered with liquid. If you want to save time, a pressure cooker will give you a marvelous stock in less than an hour. A slow cooker will do the work overnight so that you wake up to the comforting aroma of real chicken broth.

When it’s done, skim most of the fat and cool the stock down quickly in an ice bath, then chill it. A great trick is to freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop out the frozen blocks of stock and keep them in a bag in the freezer to use when making a quick pan sauce. I use up most of my stock in risotto. I just can’t bear to spend money on something that’s not only easy to make but also tastes so much better than anything you can buy.

The fat police want us to skim and snip every bit of fat from our meat and stocks, but chicken fat (when rendered it’s known as schmaltz in German and Jewish kitchens) has some winning qualities. It is high in palmitoleic acid, which is thought to be an immune booster, and it can also be a source of oleic acid, which is a good thing for cholesterol. Also, poultry fats are low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, making them more stable than other fats at higher heat. One of the secrets to why real Jewish chopped liver is so delicious is the schmaltz the onions and liver are sautéed in.

Isn’t crisp skin and tender, juicy meat what we most yearn for in chicken? But how to reach that double-whammy nirvana? High-heat roasting doesn’t always result in perfect skin, and broiling can dry out the meat. Here’s a chef tip: Pan-roast your chicken.

First, heat your oven to 425°F. For this method, pat the skin side dry (the USDA isn’t keen, but you’ll have fewer splatters) and immediately dispose of the paper towels, then season well with good salt and pepper. On top of the stove, heat a heavy ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) until it’s really hot, and film the bottom lightly with oil. Add your chicken pieces, skin side down, without crowding, and brown the skin well—do this in batches, if necessary. Turn the chicken skin-side up (it’s OK to crowd the skillet a bit now), then transfer the skillet to the oven and roast it until it registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer: 20 to 25 minutes for breasts on the bone and 25 to 30 minutes for drumsticks and thighs. Be sure to use a good oven mitt when removing the skillet from the oven!

Kemp Minifie was wrapped up in all aspects of food at Gourmet magazine for 32 years, and is now part of the Gourmet Live team. For more tried and tested tips and tricks, check out her weekly Kemp’s Kitchen column on the Gourmet Live blog.

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