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Showin’ Some Skin

Chefs across Los Angeles are turning to fried chicken skin as the snack food du jour.

Tom Bergin’s take on chicken skins, paired with Cashel Blue cheese sauce

The dining room at SAAM sets the stage for Jose Andres’ inventive dishes, including chicken skin and cigala.

The Hart & The Hunter’s cracklings, served with hot vinegar

Fried chicken fans know that the key to a perfect bite is both incredibly juicy chicken and perfectly crispy skin. So what happens when you take the moist, tender meat out of fried chicken? You get cracklings, the chicken version of pork rinds (or chicharrón). The deep-fried or baked chicken skins puff up as they cook and chefs around town are starting to use them in all kinds of creative ways. Whether they’re served as pseudo-chips before the meal or as a main menu component to add a decadent crunch to dishes that need a little lift, chicken cracklings have finally found a place at the table. The Hart & The Hunter (7950 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323.424.3055, thehartandthehunter.‌com) reaches back to its Southern roots with a plate of crispy cracklings served with nothing but a housemade hot pepper vinegar sauce. Douse the skin with the Tabasco clone, eat and repeat. Be careful, though—the whole order has a tendency to disappear within seconds. Chef Brandon Boudet, co-owner of Irish pub mainstay Tom Bergin’s Tavern (840 S. Fairfax Ave., L.A., 323.936.7151, tombergins.‌com), recently brought in fried spicy chicken skin with a Cashel Blue cheese sauce. They’re meatless cousins of Buffalo wings and the crunch factor is off the charts. SAAM (465 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310.246.5545, thebazaar.‌com), José Andrés’ ultraluxurious restaurant-in-a-restaurant at The Bazaar, puts an elegant spin on cracklings with chicken skin and cigala, a luscious langoustine resting on top of a chicken skin cracker with parsley foam floating on top. At Silver Lake’s Black Hogg (2852 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323.953.2820, blackhogg.‌com), wonton-esque chicken skin chips poke out of the spicy chopped chicken liver on toast. And at Ilan Hall’s The Gorbals (501 S. Spring St., L.A., 213.488.3408, thegorbalsla.‌com), cracklings are the main event in the signature “gribenes, lettuce, tomato” sandwich, a Jewish take on a classic BLT with baked chicken skin taking the place of bacon.