Time to Go Back

Seeing as how I teach only evening classes at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago, I'm never home with my wife and kids for weeknight dinners. My wife gets home from work and almost immediately begins preparing whatever it might be that she and the kids will be eating that night. Fortunately for me, they are all such loving and considerate human beings that they always save me enough of whatever they had to satisfy my hunger when I return home from class.

One day last week, I was able to get a big roasting chicken in the oven before my wife got home so it would have enough time to cook to the proper doneness and be ready for them to eat. Normally, when we roast a chicken, we cut out the bird's backbone to flatten it out and expedite the cooking, a process known as "spatchcocking". The backbone then usually goes into the freezer to be used for stock once enough parts have accumulated. This time, however, I threw the meaty backbone into the roasting pan along with the spatchcocked bird in order to have an extra tasty treat later that night.

What's that? You've never specifically and intentionally dined on just the crispy, golden brown, succulent back of a roasting chicken? OK, maybe I can see that it sounds a bit odd to rave about such an item, but it is truly one of the tastiest, most enjoyable parts of the bird. There is one bite in particular that outshines every other bite of poultry in the entire world. Some people call it the pope's nose, but it is really just the tail of the chicken, where the tail feathers attach themselves. It's really more skin, cartilage, and fat than actual meat, but when it's golden brown and crispy, there is simply nothing better. You've got to give one a try as soon as possible.

When I got home much later that evening, and I had taken the time to re-crisp the roasted back in a nice, hot oven, I was reminded that there really is a lot of truth in the idea that the "off" cuts of our furred and feathered friends offer the very best eating...at least to us connoisseurs of serious goodness!