I am concerned about the nation’s economy, of course, but there is an approaching catastrophe linked to the economic crisis that frightens me more. It is the inevitable arrival of hordes of cookbooks, websites, and food articles devoted to making meals on the cheap. I fear titles like “Ten Dinners in Ten Minutes for Under a Buck,” and “How to Save Money by Omitting Flavor.” I have offered to appear before Congress and testify to the necessity of a rescue. I took a number and I am waiting my turn.
But there is hope. Hope because the foundations of great cooking do not rest on slabs of foie gras or shavings of truffle. Great cooking is about transformation and it rests in part on the backs of chickens. Literally. That humble, essentially free, cut from the chicken carcass renders stock and treats us to oysters.
If you’re not familiar with the chicken oyster, it’s what I was eating as I carved the chicken before I brought it to the table. You were none the wiser. The oyster is also the piece of meat you surrender to your spouse for suffering your cooking habit because it took a bit longer than you expected to make dinner and all the while she was creating a demilitarized zone between your two daughters.
Chicken oysters are the ultimate nugget of rich dark meat. They come from the back of the chicken near the hip joint. After I’ve roasted a chicken, I pry them out with my fingers. This is probably the best way to eat them given the effort-to-enjoyment ratio of the task. To remove them raw, I use a small knife with a sharp point. Once I’ve freed the oysters from the back of the chicken, I will use the back to make either white or brown stock for soups and sauces. The oysters can be coated or uncoated and roasted, sautéed, or deep-fried.
For an elegant preparation, hack up several chickens and save the legs, thighs and breasts for future meals. Make a brown or white stock from the backs and use the oysters in a first course preparation, three to a plate with some root vegetables. Use some of the stock to make a sauce or jus to accompany the oysters.
Let one humble part of the chicken show you the way through the recession. You’ll be a better cook and your family will enjoy the food you’ve put on the table.