The mysterious airline chicken breast
Deskmate Scott was asking me about airline chicken breasts, which he's seen recently on the menus of several Baltimore restaurants, including the new Clementine in Hamilton and Lucy's (formerly Maggie Moore's). Is it a trend?
Well, we all know the definition of trend is three. When I Googled airline chicken breast, the menu of Hull Street Blues popped up. ...
Not only that, earlier this week I ate at Saute in Canton, and the cut was used in a daily special. How close to a trend are we getting here, folks? (If you can call something trendy that's been around since the '60s.)
Here's as official a description of an airline chicken breast as I could find for you. It's from Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. In his e-mail to me he said:
It is a boneless breast portion with the first wing segment (the "drummette") attached. There is a rather detailed official description I could fax to you although I do not have it electronically. Please send me your fax number if you want to see that. I also have a very recent book on "Culinary Arts" which says, "If the drummette is left on, chop off the end knuckle and push back the meat for a finished presentation."
This is also referred to as a "hotel cut" (especially by hotel chefs, obviously)...
I told him we probably didn't need a more detailed official description.
I wish I had a photo for you, but none of the ones I could find on Google images looked like anything.
There seem to be several explanations for the name.One is that part of the wing was left on the boneless breast to make the serving look bigger when airlines used to serve free meals on flights. (Yes, children, once upon a time you didn't have to buy $5 snack boxes to eat on an airplane.)
Another is that the cut looks like it's about to take flight off the plate. This only works if you picture it as a whole breast with two drumettes attached. (I spell it with one "m," by the way. To each his own.)
(Photo of Clementine by Andre F. Chung)