Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dominican Fried Chicken or Chicharrones de Pollo

Chicharrones de Pollo is what I've most frequently heard it called. Though particularly associated with the Dominican Republic, similar preparations are ubiquitous throughout much of the southern quadrant of the western hemisphere. The most distinguishing characteristic is that a three pound fryer, including the skin-bearing neck and back, is cut into about 40 pieces, bone in. The pieces are then marinated, dipped in flour, and fried. As far as the skin part is concerned, the crisper the better. Chicharrones means cracklings.

It's simple enough to make. Have an entire three pound fryer cut into about 40 pieces. Marinate them for two hours at room temperature in a mixture of equal parts heavy soy sauce, fresh lime juice, and golden rum. Meanwhile, take a cup of flour, season it with salt, pepper, and Spanish paprika, then place in an appropriate sized zip-lock plastic bag. Remove the chicken piece by piece from the marinade, dry with paper towels, and place them all in the bag together before shaking around with the seasoned flour. Fry the flour-coated chicken pieces in a skillet with several tablespoons of canola or peanut oil (I prefer peanut) until done to your liking, or place for 12 minutes into a deep fryer where the oil has been pre-heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When done, place on a paper towel covered plate for a couple of minutes to crisp.

So much for a most pleasing way to enjoy fried chicken. Still, it's the "cracklings" aspect that I find most intriguing. If you'd like to make this dish more a cracklings experience and less a fried chicken experience, here's my suggestion: Remove and use the skin, but leave out the breast meat and reserve for a another use in a different recipe. That was my approach to the platter pictured at left, which I enjoyed far more than the one pictured above it. Dousing with hot sauce should make the experience all the more enjoyable for most.