Chef Matt Jennings Of Farmstead

Matthew Jennings gets down with epidermis

A passion for eating skin might seem more fitting for Hannibal Lecter than for Matt Jennings, chef of Farmstead in Providence, Rhode Island.

Nonetheless, when we asked Jennings which ingredient he finds himself turning to most these days, he cited the oft-overlooked organ.

Jennings butchers whole animals for his restaurant and shop, Farmstead, and seeks a waste-not approach. So pig skin is saved to become chicharrones, and used in cotenne, a Southern Italian dish where the skin is rolled up, seared and stewed in a tomato ragù.

But he doesn't stop with the pig: Fish skins are dried out, smoked, and later used to add depth and flavor to stocks. "Being from New England, I prefer bluefish skin," he told us. "They are so fatty and flavorful."

Perhaps the easiest way to get in on Jennings' fascination is with skin from poultry, either chicken or turkey. "Spread the skins out on a sheet tray, then layer another sheet tray on top to compress them. Cook them at 250° for 45 minutes, then use them as chips or crumble them over bowls of pasta or salad for a satisfying crunch."