I love the word carcass. Mentioning eating chicken carcass recently on 2SER caused a wonderful facial expression on the host that was only fit for radio. But that's exactly what these are, the remains of the body of a chicken after every other usable bit has been prised off, so carcass it is.
Normally they are sold as soup bones and most people buy them to make chicken stock. There is however another ingenious use for these surprisingly meaty leftovers. Crisp, spicy, salty and with edible crunchy bones, they can be cooked and eaten as a starter, a beer snack or part of a bigger feast.
Searching for any information on cooking them brought up countless stock and 'bone broth' recipes (same thing, new trendy name). The description of them could be translated as the Chinese jījià 鸡架, which roughly means chicken carcass, rack or framework, but there's not much else around on eating them. Any other names, thoughts, translations or leads welcomed.
We tried these bones at The Old Fellow in Rhodes and just couldn't wait to get down to Chicken George in Marrickville Metro to buy some bits and try to recreate them. A bag of soup bones is the whopping price of $1.20 for 3 frames there, other chicken shops may sell them by the kilo (often around $1.99 or so) or per frame.
You need to use raw chicken carcass for this recipe, the mangy leftovers from your roast won't work as well.
What you need:
3 chicken carcasses (frames). They will have no leg or wing bones, but most probably still have the neck attached. They are quite clean inside, there may still be a few innards attached but don't bother removing them, these will cook up and you will never know they were there.
6 tablespoons potato starch/flour (you could substitute cornflour/starch but you won't need as much because it is heavier). This is not flour made from ground potatoes, it is the starch product used for thickening soups.
2 teaspoons ground sichuan peppercorns or toast and grind whole ones
1 teaspoon ground chilli (more if you want more heat, or throw in some chilli flakes)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons salt
Potato starch, not flour. This bag was about $4 at Miracle Supermarket in Marrickville Metro, but I'll be using it for other Fuschia Dunlop inspired cooking.
The how to:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. A hot oven will give these guys the crunch they need.
Rinse chicken frames and pat dry.
Using a strong pair of kitchen shears, cut up each chicken frame into fist size pieces, first cutting along the breast and back bones to make two large pieces. Then follow the intersections between bones and joints to make smaller pieces. The pieces that have pockets of skin and fat will be the tastiest, so try and cut with a shared amount. Take care to keep the wishbones intact as these crisp up beautifully. I didn't keep the necks as I find the bones are a little too fine, so save these for either the cat or the stock pot.
It might sound like this is a simple task but it was a little tricky to cut through the carcass. Perhaps my shears aren't as sharp as they should be but I'm always frightened I'm going to lose a pinkie and look like a Yakuza member so I haven't had them sharpened. So be careful, mmm, OK?
Lightly toast peppercorns in a dry frypan for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind until fine. You can also sift the left over husk out if you want a finer powder (it has no flavour so there's no loss) but I leave it in as a) I'm lazy and b) it doesn't detract from the final coating mix so why bother.
I've thought about also toasting sesame seeds and grinding them in as well, it could make this mix slightly more luscious.
Place all the coating ingredients in to a plastic bag and shake to mix.
Put up to about three or four pieces into the bag at a time, and shake-a-shake to coat the pieces. As you lift each piece out, give it another small shake to get rid of excess coating.
Place the pieces onto a non stick shallow tray or line with baking paper. You don't need to use any oil, the fats in the skin and meat will work to crisp up the outsides. Observe tray not lined with paper - big mistake as some of the glorious coating remained stuck to the pan. Stick tray in oven.
Observe a baking intermission with a sparkling beer or beverage of your choice.
Bake for about 40 minutes, turning pieces half way through. If you notice some pieces are still showing an uncooked coating (they may not have had much skin on them), brush with some of the oil that will have oozed out of the other bits. Depending on your oven, you might want to cook a bit longer so they are really crisp. It's the same amount of time as baking really crisp chicken wings.
Serve piled high with lots of napkins for wiping fingers, these are handy unless you want excessive finger licking. Some of the bones are small and are so crunchy you can just bite through them, like super crunchy chicken wings or tiny quail bones.
We also observed a very strange phenomenon the next day. Not the fact there were any bones left, but that they had a mysterious flavour resemblance to KFC when eaten cold. Perhaps the Colonel was part Chinese.
Finally, once you've eaten all the flesh and munched on the crunchy bones, then you can throw what's left into the stock pot.
Go on, grab a carcass and chow down! Let us know if the recipe worked for you and any tweaks or additions you might make.