Food Mavens in Our Midst: Alan Knuckman

Financial analyst knows his way around the grill

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By David Hammond

Alan Knuckman drops off his daughter every day at the Montessori school in River Forest, and then he heads to work downtown. He’s a financial analyst.  His wife, Lisa, is an OPRF graduate and currently executive producer at  Filmworkers Club, a post production company in Chicago.

Alan is also a BBQ chicken enthusiast.

Unlike many of us for whom summer is synonymous with grilled food, Knuckman is taking his passion to the next level by actually creating a product for general consumption: OriginAl’s BBQ Chicken Ribs.

Going from the financial district to the abattoir was a challenge. Knuckman says that “The move from backyard grill to mass production was quite an experience for someone who had never seen the inside of a meat plant.”

Though called “chicken ribs,”  the meat is actually dark thigh meat, given a spice rub and “slow cooked and smoked with hickory wood to ensure authentic barbecue flavor.”  Knuckman believes “this process achieves pork-rib like savory taste and texture.”

Dark meat, though not usually a favorite among Americans, is gaining popularity in the United States owing, in part, to the increase in Asian and Latino populations (who, like me, favor darker, moister poultry), as well as the lower cost and high nutritional value of dark meat.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune last week (May 26th), “with unemployment high and a record 44.2 million Americans on food stamps, the low-priced meat may be an easy sell…Tyson Foods, Inc., the top U.S. chicken producer, said it will divert more of its dark meat to domestic markets.”

So dark-meat chicken “ribs” may be coming to market at just the right time.

I tried Alan’s product and liked it very well. The thigh portions are stripped of skin (which cuts down on the fat and calories in each piece), so the exterior of the meat has an almost jerky-like toothy-ness.  Though I did eat some right off the bone, I found that the flavorful pieces of meat worked well in tacos or cut onto salads, where they provide a welcome accent and a little spiciness. The packaging suggests dipping in a sauce, but I’m not sure the meat even needs more flavor, though the smoking does tend to dry out the meat a little, so a little sauce might help. I used an olive-oil based mayo to moisten the meat and thought that creaminess complemented the tangy smokiness of the BBQ. I also briefly stir-fried the cooked chicken with white rice and soy sauce, which worked to incorporate some of the needed moisture and a little saltiness, which was needed when the chicken was mixed with the  rice.

If your appetite is perked by all this talk of Knuckman's chicken ribs, sorry, you'll have to wait. Knuckman is still working on getting his chicken ribs into local Safeway and Sam’s Clubs outlets.

What’s your favorite color of meat? White or dark?


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Violet Aura  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 1:08 PM

I have always wondered why so many people like dead flesh. It has next to no flavor (unless you douse it in barbecue or steak sauce) and requires lots of work...

Nick Heitzman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 11:25 AM

Dark meat for me. I always wondered why so many people like white meat. it has next to no flavor and requires even more work.

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