Clandestine Chicken Skin

It was a simple task, but too tempting to refuse.  I’d come home early enough that Monday evening and decided, because of the heat, a salad would be great and light for dinner.  So, I began the process of boning the left over roast chicken.

The skin; golden, seasoned and succulent – began speaking to my inner kid, the carnivore who never found a bite of meat she didn’t like…    …Eat Me. …. ….Eat Me…. ….Eat… I devoured every bit of skin that remained attached to the leg bones and thighs. One piece of roasted chicken for the bowl, a piece of crispy chicken skin for me, one for the bowl, and so forth; when I realized the pope’s nose still existed, I took a break from the kitchen prep, quickly scarfed that remaining treat, then returned to boning the chicken for dinner.

Habits develop at an early age. Sometimes they stick around, no matter the medical science, new cholesterol data, or your intellectual voice.  That afternoon, I threw all three informational updates into the garbage with the chicken bones.  My only regret was that I’d never taken the time to learn how to tie up a chicken like Mom.

Nothing comes better or sweeter to my taste buds than the outer layer of a roasted chicken, seasoned with the same Mediterranean herbs, salt, and pepper that Mom always used. Toss a couple of onions in the pan and the aromatic fragrance filters to the front door, welcoming family and guests inside.

As a little kid, I just thought Mom didn’t want the chicken to run away. Mom always tied up the chicken.  She claimed that the bird roasted more evenly and stayed juicier with its legs bound and the twine wrapped around the body, securing the wings against the sides.  Whatever.

All I knew was that the string soaked up the pan drippings from the basting during the cooking period.  The string was almost as good as the crispy skin; and more portable. You could pop a piece of the string in your mouth and it lasted longer than the skin.  It was like chewing gum; you eked out all the flavor until the last drop was bleached from the cotton twine…then you disposed of it (properly, of course). My little sister and I used to fight over whose turn it was to get the string.  We would end up splitting what was available.  You hadn’t lived until you’d savored a piece of Mom’s chicken string!

Chicken skin, on the other hand, was more plentiful. It was regarded as part of the meal. One ate what was put on one’s plate – No problem for this carnivore!  Unfortunately, with the heightened awareness and health consciousness that permeates the American kitchen, one now knows better than to partake of animal fat of any kind.  I repeat: One Knows.  Like most habits which are hard to break, I completely disregard that science in the same breath as Darwinian Theory.

All I know is that nothing brings me closer to Mom’s kitchen than roasting a chicken.  Sneaking a clandestine bit of the golden skin during the carving process and popping it into the cook’s mouth while her husband is in the other room is extremely comforting.

What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. No sense introducing him to this particular penchant of mine. In my kitchen, I no longer have to share this special treat with anyone; not even my sister, now that Mom’s no longer watching.