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What Jew Wanna Eat - Gribenes

Half of my extended family is Catholic and half is Jewish, so I’m lucky enough to be able to share not only the traditions of both, but many of the families’ dishes as well.

Back in the 80’s, when I first saw my cousin Carol making gribenes (it’s pronounced grih-ben-ess), I was appalled. Chicken skin was just something you threw away after removing the meat. Short-sighted, clearly.

For generations, many Jewish families have used schmaltz (chicken fat) for cooking. I don’t often use schmaltz in my cooking, so I rarely make it. If you want to try to make schmaltz, use the longer method. If you just want a quick gribenes snack, use the Quick method, although it requires an air fryer.

Longer Method, With Schmaltz


About 1 pound chicken fat and skin cut into small pieces

1 large white onion sliced thin (Optional. I usually omit it)

1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste


Put the skin, onions and salt in a large saute pan over low heat. The fat will begin to melt immediately and the onions with start to sweat.

Stir every so often with a rubber spatula. Once the fat melts and the skin begins to brown, your schmaltz is ready! This takes about 15-20 minutes.

Drain the schmaltz into a cup and it is ready to use, or refrigerate for later. Try roasting potatoes in it with some rosemary!)

To make the gribenes, put the skin and onions back in the pan after draining the schmaltz and cook over medium-low until the skin is crispy and the onions are caramelized, about 30-40 more minutes.

Make sure your skin is in very small pieces or the onions (if using) will be ready before it is crisp. Finish with more salt if needed.

Quick Method, No Schmaltz


About 1 pound chicken fat and skin cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste


Turn the pieces of skin upside down on the cutting board. With a very sharp knife, scrape any remaining bits of fat off the back and discard.

Salt the skins on both sides. You can substitute other seasonings like Old Bay or Ranch seasoning instead of the salt if you like.

Because we’re air frying, you can either cut the skin in smaller pieces or leave them whole.

Place the skin in the fryer, top side up. Make sure that the pieces are in a single layer, with no overlapping.

Cook at 400 for 12 minutes.

Remove and place on a paper towel to remove any remaining fat. There shouldn’t be much, if any.

Besides being a great snack, these make great croutons for a salad.

And now a ridiculous confession:

Though I tasted gribenes many years ago, the thought never occurred to me to prepare it myself until I saw one of my favorite comedies, Mrs. Doubtfire.

In the movie, Robin Williams made a rather unappetizing joke about gribenes which brought it back to my mind. (Hint: A mohel is a man who performs the Jewish ritual of circumcision on infants. Oy.)

Tasteless joke aside, the movie was about family. And it’s a great time of year to think about family.

COVID has caused me to miss much of my extended family this year, but to be honest, there are many of you here in New Castle that I now consider family. Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was in September, but I with you a Shana Tova for 2022.

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