Different cultures = difference meat preferences
In Asia the average person prefers to eat the dark or red chicken meat, while in most of the western countries white chicken meat is the preferred taste. Which is actually better?
On a diet?
If you'd like to avoid the extra pounds: always choose the white chicken meat. Dark meat is roughly 25 % higher in calories than white meat, holds about double the amount of fat and is slightly higher in cholesterol. White chicken meat is nearly twice as high in niacin, while dark chicken meat offers two-to-three times as much zinc and iron as white meat. Reducing the fat in chicken meat even further can be achieved by removing the skin as that holds most of the saturated fat.
Dark-meat chicken best matched to heat of grill
By Joyce Rosencrans
Jamaicans know something most Americans choose to ignore: Dark-meat chicken is much better for grilling than white-meat chicken breasts. Thighs, drumsticks and leg quarters have more flavor, a slightly higher fat content and a substance called collagen that makes these parts better suited to the hot, direct heat of a grill.
The collagen melts during the cooking process, keeping the dark meat moist and flavorful. Even if slightly overcooked, dark-meat chicken doesn't seem quite as tough and dry as a chicken breast.
The Jamaican specialty of grilled meats with jerk seasoning – practically a national dish – is much better with whole chicken legs (or pork) than with chicken breasts. Dark-meat chicken stands up to bold marinades and seasoning. (Jerk seasoning is peppery, sure, but its distinctive touch is ground allspice berries. Allspice trees grow all over the island of Jamaica.)
For decades, American poultry producers have exported a lion’s share of dark-meat chicken parts to other countries, such as Jamaica, or wherever it’s appreciated.
Dark-meat chicken parts need longer on the grill than breast meat – especially bone-in leg quarters – but the total time involved is still less than an hour, even if cooked from the raw state over glowing coals.
Some cooks prefer to save grilling time by micro waving dark-meat chicken until partially done, then immediately transferring it to finish over the coals. This is risky because microwaves tend to make chicken a bit chewy and tough.
Pan-Asian Chicken Escabeche
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, quartered
1 jalapeno, seeds discarded
2 (5 ounce) cans water chestnuts
1 peeled carrot, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 English cucumber, skin on, cut in chunks
2 radishes, halved
1 red onion, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons each chopped cilantro and parsley
In a large plastic zipper bag, combine five-spice powder, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs, seal and turn to coat. Marinate chicken in the fridge 1 hour or overnight.
While chicken is marinating, prepare the vegetables for same: Place bell pepper pieces (red and yellow), jalapeno, drained water chestnuts, carrot, cucumber, radishes and red onion (or a Vidalia) in bowl of food processor with steel blade in place. Rough-chop by pulsing. Or julienne vegetables by hand.
Transfer vegetables to a large bowl.
Add garlic, lime juice, 1/4 cup olive oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place bowl in fridge and allow to sit for at least 1 hour.
When ready to grill, prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Drain marinade from chicken and discard. Place chicken thighs on grill and cook, turning, until done throughout, about 6 minutes per side. Cool and shred meat coarsely with two forks back-to-back.
Add chicken to vegetable salad mixture. Add cilantro and parsley; stir well to combine. Yield: 4 servings.
– Illinois Institute of Art Cooking School, Chicago