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Jan 6, 2014 09:41 AM

Towards better gribenes (crisped chicken skins, cracklings)

Take pieces of chicken skin and spread them out on a dry, clean baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about ten minutes, until they reach a golden brown and start to darken. Remove onto a plate or paper towels.

You get something like chicken chips. Thinness and with a more even crunch than gribenes cooked in shmaltz.

I often start Friday dinner with individually plated salads: cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados and either mangoes or pears - drizzled with a Dijon vinaigrette. And sprinkled with chicken skin chips broken into pieces about 1" sq.

This is really easy to do. The skins can be made days ahead. And it's a wow.

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  1. You can stuff raw chicken skins into a plastic bag, then thaw and cook weeks later. Many kosher butchers (including Grow and Behold) sell them.

    1. This is very timely - The Jewel in Evanston just started selling packages of chicken skin for gribenes and I was considering making them - thinking how my mom fried them up in a skillet but I like your oven method better - now I just need to convnce my wife to let me try making them -

      12 Replies
      1. re: weinstein5

        Don't try. Make a clandestine batch, sprinkle them on her salad without telling her what they are. Or put out a few large square ones with a bowl of guacamole.

        It's love at first bite.

        People tend to recoil a little if I offer them gribenes. So I just serve them chicken chips without saying a word. Until they ask.

          1. re: weinstein5

            Or better yet, make it with goose. :-)

            1. re: DeisCane

              Bragging about the advantage of shopping in a British butcher shop instead of an American one, are you? Ducks, we have, but kosher geese are hard to come by on this side of the pond.

              1. re: AdinaA

                Well, to be fair, I've only had that in Hungary. And only once. But the rumor is that La Boucherie in Barnet has goose. I plan to check it out after I get back from the States.

                1. re: DeisCane

                  One of the advantage of living outside the city, is that I'm able to buy a live bird at a local poultry farm and have the old time shochet take care of it.

                  Every Chanukah I make roast goose, and this year I made both goose gribenes and helzel.

                  Note to Adina: Your quick method sounds great, much easier than rendering in a saucepan, BUT I always put an onion in the pan whlle rebdering the schmaltz and making gribenes. I think I might miss some of the flavor the onion gives to the finished product. So in the next few weeks I'll try a split batch and compare.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    I'm sure you've thought of this, but you could try adding some onion powder before you roast it to replace the lost onion flavor.

                    1. re: avitrek

                      I would just put in raw onion - I love roasted onion

                      1. re: avitrek

                        I have considered and rejected the onion powder. Onion powder is not one of the spices I like. If mixed into a wet item it is passable. When sprinkled onto the outside of poultry skin and roasted (even on a whole chicken) above 325 F I find it imparts a burnt/bitter taste.

                      2. re: bagelman01


                        Which farm/shochet did you use this past year?

                        1. re: DeisCane

                          Sent you PM via FB. I don't have rishut to share some info publicly

            2. re: weinstein5

              Don't mess with a good thing. There is a reason that your mom fried them.
              Boy, does this bring back memories.

            3. As a fun twist, try putting some brown sugar based bbq rub over the skins for the final 5 minutes in the oven. The sugar and spices marry with the fat to create a very creme brulee sort of effect. I call 'em Cowboy Gribenez and they rock! Equally good with Turkey skins and absolutely sublime with duck/goose.

              1 Reply
              1. So, this post began with my method of oven crisping the skins of perfectly mundane Empire chicken that I tear off chicken pieces, shove into a bag, and freeze until wanted.

                today I attempted to oven crisp chicken skins purchased from an upscale, organic butcher. Instead of lying flat on the baking sheet until crisp, these skins curled up so that the end-product was more like traditional gribenes (which cooks unevenly and curls up)

                Anyone care to speculate on why this happened? There may have been more fat clinging to the purchased skins.

                12 Replies
                1. re: AdinaA

                  Do you defrost the chicken skins before baking?

                  1. re: AdinaA

                    Were the ones that you bought frozen first before you turned them into gribenes? If not, here's my first pass at a theory:

                    Freezing food causes low-level damage to the "structural integrity" of the food. The ice crystals that form from the frozen water puncture cells, which is why a lot of defrosted food tends to be at least a bit mushy at first. So, your frozen skins probably lay flat because they've been "damaged" in the freezing/defrosting process, while the new "fresh" skins lack that damage.

                    1. re: bubbaboy8

                      I think we need a "Good Eats" on gribenes!

                        1. re: AdinaA

                          Alton Brown series on the Food Network where he deals with the physiology of food and how it affects cooking

                          1. re: AdinaA

                            It's a show on the Food Network with Alton Brown. Each episode is a type of food, and he presents some history, ways to cook it, some of the science behind a specific method of cooking that type of food, etc. Or he will focus on a specific cooking method (e.g., frying) or a more generalized theme (e.g., (an upcoming holiday).

                            In doing a google search, it looks like the show has moved to Cooking Channel

                            There is a lot to learn from the show, and it is presented in a very accessible manner (so really ideal for a new or tentative cook, but also good for people with more experience, especially those interested in history or science of foods). I have trouble getting past some of the hokiness of the humor.

                            1. re: asf78

                              All good and accurate, except I love the humor. :-)

                          2. re: DeisCane

                            A friend of mine once referred to me as "the Alton Brown of kosher food", so maybe I'll do it. :-)

                          3. re: bubbaboy8

                            That is possible. The Empire skins had been in the freezer in a thin ziploc sandwich bag for 2 - 3 months.

                          4. re: AdinaA

                            Chances are that your first batch of chicken skin that you had frozen (think freezer burn or the dryness of thawed frozen rye bread as opposed to fresh) had a much lower mositure content than the fresh skin from the butcher.

                            The skin with more moisture (fat and/or water) will curl/shrink more in the cooking process.

                            Second theory is that the upscale poultry had a different diet from the Empire birds which may have affected moisture/fat content

                            Third theory, different salting and soaking (all above the minimum required for kashrut, but leaving the organic skin moister

                            BTW, the only thing better than discussing gribenes is eating gribenes.

                          5. My mother always made these the traditional way, slowly on the stove, just with pieces of chicken fat, not skin. And of course the fat that liquefied off was shmaltz, kept in a jar.

                            So would this method work with pieces of fat? I like the idea of doing this in the oven. Do you think I could put them into one of those disposable lasagna pans to catch the shmaltz so it's not flowing all over my oven? It seems like 10 minutes wouldn't be long enough.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: helou

                              I haven't tried AdinaA's method yet, but if I use disposable pans I put the disposable pan on top of a "regular" pan. I find aluminum does a poor job of baking in general. The thin metal doesn't retain heat as well as a thicker metal or Corning or Pyrex. Heat radiated by the cooking vessel is different than the heated air of the oven. I'm sure Alton Brown could explain it! I also grew up with onion with my gribenes. In Adina's method, I might try adding onions to the pan and stirring intermittently while the skin becomes crispety-crunchity.

                              1. re: helou

                                If it is just fat you will not get Gribbenes - Grebbenes is the what is left of the chicken skin once the fat has rendered out of it - basically crunchy goodness -

                                1. re: weinstein5

                                  I'm not sure that's correct. My understanding has always been that the gribines (or grievelach as we used to call them) are the connective tissue that remains after the fat melts away. As the fat is rendered out, the connective tissue is getting fried.
                                  Same story with skin gribenes - it's what remains when the fat melts away.

                                  1. re: helou

                                    It is true that if you take some loose fat with no skin attached from a chicken and set it on top of the bird as you put it into the oven to roast (so that it will baste the bird) when the bird is roasted that lump of fat will have melted away leaving a crispy piece of gribenes. You definitely produce that sort of gribenes when you render poultry fat. Whether that connective tissue, or the skin, or both were what the old country called gribenes, I couldn't say. But I understand the English world cracklings to encompass both.

                                    1. re: helou

                                      I have always heard that it is was the skin -