What’s the best part of a roasted chicken? The tender breast? The juicy thigh? Maybe the crispy skin? Those are all delicious parts of a roasted chicken, but they are also the wrong answer. We’re here to let you in on a little secret that not everyone knows about. The best parts of a roasted chicken are, without a doubt, the two little nuggets of happiness buried on the back of the bird known as the “oysters.”
The chicken oysters have historically been a snack for the chef, a small payment for a job well done. Not many people are aware of their existence, so most of the time they get forgotten, left to help flavor the chicken stock. We’re here to tell you that after you know where to look and pluck them out the next time you roast a chicken, you’ll never forget about them ever again. Every chicken has two oysters, so that means they are a pretty hot commodity and you can decide whether to share the other one or not. We won’t judge you if you don’t.
The oysters are located on either side of the spine, tucked in at the back of the thighs, and while they’re slightly easier to remove from a cooked bird than an uncooked one, you should still remove them if you’re butchering a raw chicken. It’s this location that makes them so special (and tasty). Since most people cook their chickens breast-side up and the oysters are buried towards the center of the bird where all the moisture is drawn to when cooking, they are protected from the searing heat of the oven and are essentially slow-cooked in fat and roasting juices. If you are a fan of delicious flavor, taking the time to pop out these plump little bites of dark meat will make your day just a little bit better. Supremely tender and unctuous, the oysters have the most “roasted chicken” flavor of any part of the bird.
Since it’s nearly impossible to find chicken oysters for sale by themselves, our tip would be to pop them out whenever you buy a whole chicken to roast at home and freeze them. Once you’ve got a dozen or so, roast them all in a cast-iron pan with lots of butter, thyme, and garlic, and serve them over a spring pea risotto. On the other hand, if you happen to have an izakaya nearby that serves yakitori, they’ll almost always have oysters on their menu, though usually in short supply. Or keep snacking on them after you roast a chicken. Just don’t tell anyone, and you really can’t lose.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 1/2 medium onion, diced small
- 1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups chicken stock, warm
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 12-14 fresh chicken oysters
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 garlic cloves, gently smashed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Be sure to stir often to prevent browning.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the rice. Toast the rice for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce 75%.
- One ladle at a time, add the hot chicken stock to the rice, stirring frequently. When all the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock. Repeat until the rice is cooked al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- For the oysters, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large cast-iron pan until smoking. Add the oysters and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss after 3-4 minutes and continue to roast for another 3 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter, thyme, and garlic, and baste the oysters with a spoon for 1 minute. Remove the oysters to a paper-towel-lined plate to rest, reserving the roasting butter from the pan.
- To finish the risotto, return the pan to medium heat and add 1/2 a ladle of stock. When warm, add the 3 tablespoons of butter a tablespoon at a time, making sure to emulsify each time before adding more. Finish with the Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and lemon zest, adding a little stock if the risotto is too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the risotto into two bowls and top with the oysters. Drizzle some of the roasting butter on top before serving.
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