Whenever I see my wife or anyone else peel the skin from a nice piece of chicken, I think of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s fine novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. A prisoner in a Siberian Gulag, Ivan is given barely enough food to survive. He cradles the sour bread in a rag, so he can catch and eat any crumbs, licks out his cereal bowl and savors the potato peel in his soup. Survival depended on husbanding every scrap of food.
The idea of removing and discarding the tender skin, filled with life-sustaining fat and taste-bud-tantalizing flavor would never have occurred to Ivan or for that matter, to anyone of our parents’ generation. Decent people did not waste food. When we balked at a particular dish, we were told to think about the starving children in China and to be thankful that we had enough to eat.
Fried chicken with the skin on is still one of my favorite foods. Done properly, the lightly breaded skin is crisp and wonderful. Broasted chicken is just as good, as long as the breading is not too thick. However, I have also come to appreciate the flavor and health benefits of skinless chicken when it is properly marinated and cooked.
Here is a recipe for chicken that is low in fat and calories but high in flavor. You need to let the meat marinate for an hour and a half or so, but other than that, this is another really simple dish to make.
2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup dry white wine
3 T lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dried tarragon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. powdered garlic
1/8 tsp. paprika
Begin by making the marinade. Whisk the olive oil, wine, lemon juice and salt together in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Blend the tarragon, black pepper, garlic and paprika with a mortar and pestle and stir them into the liquid.
Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Split the breast pieces if they are over three-quarters of an inch thick. Put the meat into the marinade and turn the pieces to make sure they are covered with the marinade. If necessary, you can add a little more wine.
Refrigerate the bowl for about an hour and a half, turning the meat every fifteen or twenty minutes.
Have the charcoal ready or gas grill hot when the chicken is marinated. I like to use some apple or maple wood to add a hint of smoke flavor to the finished chicken.
Grill over moderate heat for ten to fifteen minutes, turning often.
Serve with your choice of vegetable and salad.
NOTE: I think that sauvignon blanc is the perfect wine for this recipe.