In Make It Till You Fake It, The Takeout writers try to recreate a magical dish they saw somewhere, then reflect on whether their valiant attempt was a success or failure.
My kid just turned 2, and we decided to order fried chicken for his party. It required little work on my part, it was cheap, and a crowd-pleaser. As always, I overestimated the appetite of our guests, and we ended up with two buckets worth of leftover KFC. My brother-in-law Nick and I were then discussing ways of repurposing leftover fried chicken, and one thought led to another, and soon Nick suggested there should be a fried chicken potato chip flavor.
Within two minutes—and I literally meant that quickly—I dug up the food dehydrator that’s been sitting dormant for at least eight years (yes, in the middle of my son’s birthday party). I peeled off the skin from eight pieces of chicken, and carefully laid the crispy-on-one-side, flaccid-on-the-other pieces onto the drying rack. I set the dehydrator to 145 degrees and left it alone. I didn’t even know what I planned on doing with the skin; all I knew was that I would remove all excess moisture and fat in the dehydrator, freeze it, then pulverize in a food processor into a powder.
Eight hours later, the chicken skin hadn’t completely dried out—it was still plenty oily—but it had become chip-like in texture. My thinking was freezing this would give it the best chance to grind into the smallest pieces possible.
A few days later, I pulled out the frozen dehydrated shards of fried chicken skin, which I kept in an air-tight freezer bag to prevent the oils from absorbing surrounding flavors. I threw them in a food processor and pulsed the pieces.
I quickly realized the friction from the blade was a source of heat, and therefore, the frozen chicken skin was quickly melting and leeching oil. The second issue: My dream of pulverizing into a fine powder would not be happening. They were turning into a Bacon Bits-like consistency, large enough to still be crunchy.
So it wouldn’t do much good sprinkled on potato chips or popcorn. But what if I treated it as a breadcrumb? Like a gratin topping, layered over a casserole and broiled? My first thought went to mashed potatoes. Then I considered some sort of ooey-gooey casserole that could benefit from a crunchy element. But what I ultimately had on hand was leftover mac ‘n’ cheese. So I spooned some into a Corningware casserole dish, and topped some of that KFC chicken skin crumbs.
The result? It was certainly indulgent. There was no semblance of subtlety or refinement; it was, as my wife noted, “a fat kid’s food.” Remembering that this was still chicken skin, even a little mixed in with mac ‘n’ cheese left something slick on my tongue. But was it delicious? Hell yeah, but truth be told, I could only take a few bites before I backed away.
There’s a restaurant here in Chicago near my office called GT Fish & Oyster, and one of their many terrific dishes is a grilled fish taco topped with chicharron powder. Now this is a smart way to use chicken skin crumbles—the rich counterpoint to something acidic and light, and in small quantities. And so I turn to you, Takeout commentariat: How would you use crispy ground-up pieces of fried chicken skin? I mean, besides packing it in my cheeks like a chipmunk?