I had an event at church this past weekend where I had to provide the main dish for sixty people.  I was looking to do this as cheaply as possible while still supplying a great meal.  A local store where I like to get deals had chicken thighs, backs attached, for $0.69 a pound so I picked up twenty pounds.

First step was to break the thighs down.  They were on sale and had backs attached so that meant two things: lots of skin and bone I didn’t want in my final dish.  I pulled all the skin off and then removed the thighs from the backs, leaving the one small bone in the thigh.  That left me with three piles: skins, thighs and bones.

Yikes: the meat is outweighed by the skins believe it or not!  I wasn’t sure what the main dish would be but I knew what to do with the skins and bones.

First up was to get those bones into the oven to roast: I separated the bones onto two half sheet pans and added my carrots, onions and celery before putting them in a 400F oven for an hour until everything had browned nicely.  Then bones and mirepoix went into a stock pot with peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste, everything just covered with cold water.  I brought that to a simmer and slipped it into a 250F oven overnight.  Strained out the stock through a cotton cloth and I was left with a rich and dark chicken stock.

The pot of chicken skins was put on a low burner after I added a 1/4 cup of water.  After a few hours a good amount of fat had rendered.  It has a good many hours to go until all the fat is rendered from those skins; the heat needs to be very low and it’s done when the skins go crisp.  [intlink id=”2034″ type=”post”]Why bother[/intlink]?  Schmaltz or chicken fat is great to cook with, just like bacon fat.  Save it up to [intlink id=”758″ type=”post”]confit[/intlink] and save yourself the cost of buying duck fat; freezes well.  Plus the crispy skins are a meat lovers dream.

I had finally decided on a course of action for my main: grilled braised chicken thighs.  The thighs received a generous dousing of salt, pepper and vegetable oil, then on the grill for a quick sear.  I didn’t cook them all the way, just enough to get grill marks and some smokey essence from the charcoal.  While that was happening I sautéed onions in my pot, then added grated garlic and tomato paste.  A minute later I added smoked paprika and two chipotle peppers (the canned in adobo type), then chicken stock. Cremini mushrooms added whole and let to cook a little, along with a few bay leaves and a cinnamon stick.  The grilled chicken thighs were then added and the pot brought to a simmer before being put in a 300F oven until the meat was tender and not quite falling off the bone.

The sauce was a little thin so I mixed some rendered chicken fat with flour until it was smooth and added it to the pot.  I then added green peppers and cooked until they were slightly tender but still had some crunch.  Finished product was a delicious pot of grilled braised chicken with a smokey spicy sauce with a hint of cinnamon.  Delicious.  I even had a little chicken left over after the event; unfortunately the pot had been drained of sauce.

A few comments.  Sorry but I didn’t measure anything so it’s pretty free form: it’s a basic goulash with chipotle and cinnamon added for a more Mexican flavour.  I like the taste of roasting the bones and vegetables for stock; it’s that extra little something.  Tomato paste added to your stock gives it some richness and a nice colour.  The rendered fat from the roasted bones was saved; it’s a completely different flavour and aroma from uncooked rendered chicken fat.