Sunday, April 12, 2015

Schmaltz and Griebenes, a Jewish Love Story - Citrus Jalapeño Chicken and Egg Barley with Shittakes and Griebenes

I love chicken. (And so does he.  Even when he's getting ready to head over to MegaCon.)

There, I said it.  I never tire of chicken.  I like to cook it, I love to eat it.  I don't mind cleaning it or cutting it up.  Chicken is to Jewish cuisine what pork is to Southern cooking.  We use just about every part of it.  We even have cracklings.  Let's face it, chicken rocks.

More about that later, except to mention that my house smells amazing, wish you were here.

Dealing with insane itching today.  Not a big deal, just a gentle reminder that my nerve endings are totally outside my control.  The Yorkies have it worse than I do, but at least they can blame it on the fleas.

Oh, I had a nice day.  My idea of a good time involves walking up and down the aisles in Publix; your mileage may vary.  I picked up everything I missed during yesterday's foray into the Walmart grocery. I got pictures of flowers; hibiscus and magnolias are in bloom.  I saw lots of cows.  I tried the salted caramel coffee from Wawa, and it was good, really good.  The insane itching has subsided somewhat, and I don't hurt too much.  I also had a lovely surprise, a Facebook message from an old friend from my school days in the Five Towns.

Since returning from my aisle-walking (there's my cardio for today) I have been cooking.  The chicken has been marinated, and the marinade is one I puzzled out in my head, with some initial inspiration from this online recipe, but as you will see I made major changes.  Exactly what I wanted, and I don't get to say that very often.

I have been wanting to highlight a side dish, and came up with something a little different and a lot Jewish.  I was able to make use of all the fat I trimmed from the chicken thighs, and trust me, the flavors are awesome. Pork fat may rule in some kitchens, but if you ever had a Jewish bubbe, it was all about the schmaltz.  This is the quintessential Jewish pasta dish, egg barley, which is indeed made from eggs and has nothing to do with barley. We usually prepare it with lots of fried onions and mushrooms, but I kicked this one up just a notch by preparing it with schmaltz (chicken fat) and griebenes (cracklings).  Since the egg barley depends on the trimmed fat from the chicken, it makes sense to serve them together.

Citrus Jalapeño Chicken

5 pounds chicken thighs, on the bone, skin intact, trimmed of excess fat and skin (set aside to make the griebenes)

1 1/2 cups frozen orange juice, defrosted (1 - 12 oz. can)
grated peel and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup wildflower honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper          
2 teaspoons chunky garlic paste
1 small or 1/2 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons grated onion (use an old-fashioned box grater)

Whisk the marinade ingredients together.  Let it sit at room temperature for 10 - 15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning.  Remember that the herbs will continue to "bloom" during the marinating period.  Place the chicken in a jumbo ziploc bag, pour on the marinade, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for several hours, the longer the better.  I left the chicken in the fridge for eight hours, and the flavor really penetrated the meat.

Set the oven on low broil, and place the chicken, skin side up, on a rack over baking dish (I did this in two batches.) Pour the used marinade into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Reduce the marinade slightly.  Broil the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes each side, basting with some of the marinade. Watch carefully, but don't freak out if the skin appears to burn.

Place the chicken into a clean aluminum baking dish.  Using tongs, remove the skin and discard it.  The chicken will have stayed nice and moist.  Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon the remaining marinade over the chicken and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is done all the way through and the top of the chicken is lightly glazed.


The main goal of rendering the chicken fat is to obtain schmaltz, but the crispy chicken skin - the griebenes - is the best by-product around.  Onions fried in schmaltz have an extra-special taste that you cannot get from any other cooking fat, including butter and olive oil, and really enhance the flavor of chopped liver, kasha varnishkes, or any potato dish.  The griebenes can be eaten on their own as a snack, or stirred into a dish, or used to top it like bacon bits.

It is easy to do - cut the fat and any attached skin to whatever size you want. I cut these fairly small, as my plan was to add them to the egg barley, so I wanted bits rather than chunks.  Place them in a heavy nonstick skillet, and add about 1/4 cup of water.  Bring to a simmer, and keep simmering for as long as it takes to render the fat and crisp the chicken skin, which may take over an hour.

When the fat is more than halfway rendered (the liquid fat will start to cover the remaining cracklings), add 1/2 of a good-sized onion, chopped. Continue to simmer until the griebenes are crisp and the onion is deeply caramelized.

With a slotted spoon, remove the onions and griebenes from the pan; let the fat drip off and then place in a baking dish.  Don't bother to drain them on paper towels.  Pour the cooled, rendered fat into a small container, and use for the egg barley recipe or refrigerate for some other use.

Egg Barley with Shiitakes and Griebenes

1 - 3 1/2 oz. box of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced thin
2 tablespoons schmaltz, divided
1 1/2 cup egg barley
2 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes
3 1/2 cups boiling water
black pepper to taste
a pinch of dried thyme

Heat 1 tablespoon of the schmaltz in a heavy nonstick pan.  Add the sliced shiitakes and cooked over medium heat till tender and a bit crispy. Add to the dish with the griebenes and onions.

In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of schmaltz; add the uncooked egg barley and stir to coat with the fat.  Toast for a very brief time, then add the two Knorr cubes, broken up, the black pepper, and the thyme. Immediately pour in the boiling water, stir, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the egg barley is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the cooked egg barley to the baking dish with the shiitakes and griebenes, and stir to combine.  Taste and re-season if necessary.  If you like, bake the dish, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, to absorb any excess moisture and crisp up the egg barley just a tiny bit.

Robert enjoyed it for dinner, and actually took seconds on the egg barley. The rest is packed up in the fridge for whenever Cory gets home -

Might be a while ... I'm not sure which Universe they ended up visiting ...

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