Another Tasty Success: Chicken Gizzards in Goji Berry Sauce

Chicken Gizzards in Goji Berry SauceI’ve been experimenting with more chicken gizzard recipes.  This time around, after hearing about what goji berries are really used for in Asia, I decided to give it a go myself.  As it turns out, goji berries are one of the most perfect seasonings for chicken or really any other poultry.  It may be because of the loads of vitamin C in them, but they totally remove any of the funny “this is an organ meat” aftertaste from gizzards.

Many people on the superfood trend eat goji berries like raisins, but be aware that they are in the nightshade family of plants.  If you have CFS, fibromyalgia, or arthritis, or any issues with potatoes or other plants in the same family, stay away from them.  Everyone else who has a tolerance for nightshade family plants should try them though, but sparingly.  They are like tiny, very sweet mild peppers.

Stewed Pupik Was A Success

Stewed Chicken GizzardsThis time around, I tried slow cooking the gizzards, and they came out beautifully.  My husband says they’re just like his mom used to make.

This time, they were more palatable to me.  They were soft kind of like the pearl of the chicken back.  The taste and texture reminded me of that.  If I had my preference though, I’d have let them cook for more than 2 hours because the only thing I didn’t like is that bit of cartilage that joins the two sides of the gizzard.  If they cook longer, that part would melt and become a part of the sauce.

The sauce was awesome.  It was wonderful as it was, but I think with longer cooking, it would have been a good basis for aspic, a Russian appetizer that is like a meat jelly.  Indeed, the sauce did turn into a gel when it was refrigerated.

Next week, since my family likes pupik so much, I’m going to get more and experiment.  If you like dark meat, gizzards are both a tasty and extremely economical choice.  For your money, you get nothing but nice, nutritious meat that can be used for anything you’d use thighs for.  Even better, if you have pets, the pre-cooking water is a great soup to supplement their food with.

Here, thighs are about $5 per kilo, while pupiks are around $2.50 or less.  They’re sometimes on sale for $1.50.  I think they’re so cheap because you can’t just throw them in a pot and go.  They have to be pre-boiled, so people who can afford to, opt for other parts.

It’s okay.  I’ll take ’em.

Found Fat and Pupik Update

Joy of joys, today we found a shop that has and is willing to sell us their pork fat.  I was so happy.  It was very cheap, about $1.50 per kilo.  So now I will never have to worry about where to find fat for rendering, unless they go out of business.

They say they’re not the only ones.  You have to find a place that buys by the side and ask for the internal fat.  If you ask for the fat, they think you want what most other people want, which is the fat back, not the other subcutaneous and inner fat.  So you have to be specific.

The same place has “pupik” (gizzards) that looked very nice, so I thought today was as good a time as any to try them, since now I’ve got the grease to fry them in.  My daughter loved them, and is now devouring them with ketchup like chicken nuggets.  I would eat them on a salad, but much like other chicken nuggets, wouldn’t bother much about them otherwise.  Shai (my husband) said they were too chewy, and not like his mom used to do.

So now I have a quest, but one I don’t think I’m going to like.  I was instructed by every home cooking southern woman I know to always ALWAYS pre-boil gizzards.  Every eastern Asian cook I know says the same.  Apparently, non southern and non Asian folks don’t do that.   I don’t want to think about what it must taste like.  There has got to be some way to be sure to clean off all the gooey membrane and still come out with tender results.

I’m thinking that they must need to be slow cooked.  I hate to call other cooks wrong, but I just don’t see how they’ll get thoroughly clean without the pre boiling.  So with kilo #2 of the pupiks, I’m going to try preboiling, cleaning, and then slow cooking them.  We’ll see how it goes.

Chicken Schmaltz

You will need:

A deep, preferably seasoned cast iron frying pan.
A wooden spoon or spatula.

2 kg. Chicken skin
2 large onions
1 teaspoon sea salt if you aren’t using kosher chicken skin
a large, clean glass or pyrex type bowl
a cheesecloth or a steady hand
a sterilized jar with a resealable lid

Rinse the chicken skin, and pull out any feathers or roots that might be still in it.

As best as you can, chop the chicken skin into small pieces, and chop your onions into somewhat coarse chunks.  If you’ll be using the schmaltz for baking sweets or something, omit the onions.

Heat your pan on high heat, and then put in your chopped chicken skin and onions.

Turn the heat down to low, until you have nothing left but crispy chicken skin and browned onions, swimming in their own grease.

Pour the grease through a cheesecloth into the glass bowl.

Let this settle until any solids that may be left, settle to the bottom.

Pour the grease, leaving behind the settled solids, into the sterilized jar.  Let it cool and then close the jar.

Schmaltz can keep unrefrigerated for a couple of weeks, but most people like to refrigerate it so it will keep longer.

The solid bits of chicken skin and onions that are left are called “gribenes”.  These can be used for many recipes, or eaten on bread or sprinkled on salads.  Try it mixed with cream cheese on toast or a bagel.

Slimming with Schmaltz

The debate as to which is better, animal or vegetable based fats, is as yet ongoing.  It’s impossible for someone who isn’t a biologist to parse the information correctly, so for my own efforts, I looked into the past.

First off, deep fried foods were rare, as this was considered a waste of oil/fat.  Fat was considered, and actually is, an important part of a healthy diet.  The fat you eat, and excess calories that your body converts to fat are needed for your eyes, skin, and organs to function properly.

It seems however, that the difference between quality fat and junk fat is whether or not it is natural for the body to digest and metabolize it.  So any naturally rendered fat is going to be better than fats that require any machinery other than a press and a pot to get it.

Think about it: corn has almost no fat, yet there is corn oil.  Though paleo diet purists are against corn or other cultivated grains, nutritionally and ecologically you’re better off eating a corn pancake fried in a little bacon grease or grass fed cow butter than the same corn pancake fried with corn oil.  Cornbread made with the minimum amount of butter or lard to make it moist would be even better.

Now, for the anecdotal evidence from my own efforts.  I’ve begun to lose weight faster, and have more energy, since I rolled back to what I like to call the “Grandma diet”.  The fats I use for cooking are butter, lard, cold pressed olive oil, or yellow/orange palm oil when I can get it.  For spreading, it’s either butter or olive oil.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go and make chips in lard or something.  Just, when you make your soup, use a little lard or chicken schmaltz to sweat your onions.  For the toasts to go with it, sprinkle on a little olive oil or a third to half pat of butter per slice of bread.  Bread isn’t supposed to be so good for you either, but the French eat it and still don’t drop like flies.  So in moderation, carbs are alright…same with fats.

What I haven’t done yet is had blood tests done to see what all this is doing for my organs.  If the outside is any indication though, I look and feel better, so I expect good news when I do.  I’ll scan my stats and post them when I do it because I’m curious to see if there’s improvement since last year.

Try the schmaltz thing though, and see if you like it.  I think you will.  It has certainly reduced my portion sizes and my frequency of hunger.  It seems to have also increased my energy.  I’m not a napper anymore, and I’m working more efficiently.