Aki has talked about rendering chicken fat and salted onions for as long as I can remember. The chopped onions, diced chicken skin, and chicken fat are slowly cooked in a pan, melting and getting darker, richer and more decadent together. The smell, oh that smell, is like roast chicken perfume. As the fat renders from the skin, the onions slowly caramelize and little chicken cracklings develop. I witnessed something which has now changed the way I think about fat. The finished product yields a chicken-onion condiment, the essence of roast chicken and onion flavored schmaltz. (Just so happens to be the new secret ingredient for our har gow dumpling skins.) The finished products from this seemingly frugal cooking method are earth shattering. No really, they are. And it does not stop with chicken fat. Think of beautiful beef fat from a trimmed rib eye. Now chop that up with a boat load chopped onions and follow the same procedure. The result will be incredible beefy caramelized onions and onion flavored tallow perfect for confiting beef cheeks, making home fries or even pan roasting fish. The onion-crackling condiment can be folded into stuffings, bean stews, ravioli fillings, or minced further and spread on toast. And yes, it will work with pork as well. Onions and fat may be the lesser known duo compared to peas and carrots though when you see them in action you too will be converted.
The chicken cracklings, fat and onions shown here are from one large organic chicken. After we removed the cracklings and drained the fat we, deglazed the pan with water to create a light broth from the fond. For dinner I lightly sauteed chunks of carrots, celery and sliced garlic, added white beans, a couple of curry leaves and the cracklings shown above. This bean stew was brought to a simmer in the bottom of a cast iron dutch oven which was just large enough to hold the butterflied chicken. We put the chicken on top of the beans and roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As the beans slowly reduced we added the broth from the pan. The chicken happily roasted up crisp and tender over the bubbling stew. The liver was cleaned, diced, sauteed in butter and finished with a drizzle of smoked vinegar for an hors d'oeuvre. A large salad completed the meal. The only things we didn't use were the heart, neck, and gizzards. Next time. We even had a few tablespoons of fat left for that dumpling dough mentioned above. From frugality, great meals are born.
Oh yeah, and these onion cracklings, whichever flavor would be incredible folded into bread dough or even just tucked under the chicken's skin before roasting.