Tastes Like Chicken?

The phrase which gives us the title of this blog post is bandied about colloquially to indicate meat with a mild and generic flavor. Flaky whitefish? Tastes like chicken. Light chunk tuna? Tastes like chicken. Alligator? You know where this is going.

It's my experience that the majority of factory-farmed poultry in our country today tastes very little like anything at all. There's a vague, savory meatiness, sure. But a distinctive flavor? It seems to me the only flavor you get out of your average grocery store chicken is what you put in to it, like a heavy marinade and lots of salt, and hopefully a really good sear on the outside to get the tasty crispy crust. This is made worse by the typical American's fat phobia driving the purchase of skinless chicken (where much of any chicken's flavor resides).

Well as many of you know, I don't really buy meat from the grocery store anymore. I get my cuts from the butcher, and I've found that even their skinless chicken thighs have a distinctive flavor that I don't recall from my childhood. Last night I cooked up a fairly quick and easy dinner: I chopped up four slices of hand-crafted peppercorn maple bacon (also from the butcher) and fried the bits until crispy. Reserving the bacon and draining most (but not all) of the grease, I seared the salted thighs on both sides cooking them all the way through. I cooked up some cheese tortellini (some new brand imported from Italy, the name escapes me, but they're GREAT), and threw them, the bacon, and the chicken (now chopped up) into the frying pan to stir together with roasted garlic Alfredo sauce. I freshly grated some Parmigiana over the whole thing to finish.

There are several strong flavors in that dish when you think about it - garlic, salty bacon, a sharp grated cheese - but the chicken stood out. I noticed a flavor and aroma which reminded me of good scrambled eggs. Through the many components of my dish - some which might threaten to dominate the palette - the poultry could not be ignored.

And do you know what? It tasted like chicken.