The latest in the “Cutting Whole Animals” series on Button Soup: a general approach for cutting poultry.
The general skeletal and muscular structure is almost identical for all meat birds. Proportions of wing to breast to leg will vary, but the following procedure will work for chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guinea hens, as well as game birds like pheasants, grouse, partridge, and so on.
This is a whole chicken. It’s from Four Whistle Farms. It weighs about 3 kg.
Removing the Legs
The legs pull easily from the body. You can see a good deal of loose skin between the leg and body.
Cut the skin and pull the leg farther from the body.
Bend the leg behind … Continue reading.
Last November we started getting game birds, chiefly grouse and pheasant, from Mr. McLarney, who hunts them with his English pointer. In exchange for the wild poultry, I provide Mrs. McLarney with a recipe for their preparation.
Cooking grouse and pheasant is fairly new to me, and I’m still figuring out the whole hanging-plucking-gutting-cooking thing.
From the cook’s perspective, the ideal game bird (or rabbit) is shot cleanly in the head. That way there’s no shot hidden in the meat. You get a higher yield, and diners won’t unwittingly bite down on a piece of lead. I have very little experience with guns, but apparently getting that head shot is relatively easy when the slow-witted bird is standing on the … Continue reading.
Turkey is certainly one of the finest gifts made by the New World to the Old.
-Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste
The Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend we pick up a turkey from the Four Whistle truck at Old Strathcona, then take it home and cut it up, usually into two suprêmes (breasts with the drumette still attached) and two leg-thighs. I know: bringing the whole roasted bird to the table, and carving that bird in front of the guests, is an indispensable part of Thanksgiving. I appreciate the pageantry of tableside carving, but there are some huge advantages to separating the bird.
With the bird broken up into smaller pieces I can sear them to jump-start the browning. … Continue reading.
One fateful Thanksgiving I treated my turkey as if it were a leg of pork: I pickled it in brine, then smoked it on the barbecue.
The result was possibly the tenderest, juiciest turkey I have ever eaten, but few around the table even recognized it as poultry. With the rosy colour and distinct piquancy created by the curing salt, along with the smoky aroma and the moist flesh, the final product was a dead ringer for ham. My guests actually referred to it as “Ham-urkey.”
There were other issues, besides guest perception. The gentle heat of the smoker (225°F) didn’t promote the delicious, delicious browning reactions that give us crisp, golden skin. Once the turkey was done smoking, I … Continue reading.
Step One: Acquire Grouse
A friend’s father, Mr. McLarney, hunts game birds with his English pointer. I had never, not once, paused to consider the signficance of common canine descriptors like pointer, setter, and retriever, until Mr. McLarney’s hunts were explained to me. The dog walks a ways in front of him, and when it comes upon a bird it stops and “points”: it aims its snout at the prey. Mr. McLarney moves within range and readies his gun, then makes a call to the pointer. At the signal, the dog scares the bird into flight, so that Mr. McLarney can pull it from the sky with his shotgun.
Mr. McLarney trained his pointer in his backyard with a … Continue reading.
I try to cook such that we are not inundated and overwhelmed by Thanksgiving leftovers. I like to have a few turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on the days immediately after the feast, but beyond that I grow weary of leftovers. Following are some go-to preparations to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.
Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
Today I used the rest of my turkey giblets, as well as some other Thanksgiving leftovers.
I simmered the turkey neck, heart, and bones with onion, carrots, celery, thyme, white wine, and water to make stock. The neck gave a lot of body to the stock. A lot. When I chilled some extra stock it solidified to a thick pudding. To the rest of … Continue reading.
It’s amazing how a dish that is considered boring, almost proverbially boring, can be so good when it’s made properly.
Yes, chicken salad is boring when you buy it in a tub. But when you have the cold leftovers of a properly roasted bird, and thick, homemade mayonnaise, nothing beats the clean flavours of a chicken salad sandwich.
Sure, the chicken skin is no longer crisp, but it’s still tender and salty. Besides, the crispiness comes from the celery.
And the round creaminess of the mayo is spiked with raw onion, and black pepper, and vinegar, and herbs.
It’s good when the leftovers are as coveted as the original dish.
This week I made a duck liver pâté and served it with sour cherries. Both the livers and the cherries came from Greens, Eggs, and Ham.
The recipe was adapted from that for pâté grand mère in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. Duck livers can generally stand in for chicken livers.
1: Season the pork and liver (separately), with salt, pepper, bay, and thyme. Leave the mixtures overnight in the fridge.
2: The next day, chill the meat grinder and mixer parts. Ice water is particularly effective. You can also preheat your oven to 300°F.
3: After removing the bay leaf and thyme, sear the livers quickly over high heat. This is done strictly to enhance flavour and colour. Remove the … Continue reading.
Ducks and geese are fatty little creatures. Historically even fattier than they are now. Especially in southwestern France, where they are usually fattened to make foie gras.
This is a goose from Greens, Eggs, and Ham. It weighs about eleven pounds. We’re going to render some of its fat. We’re also going to confit the breasts and legs, then turn them into rillettes.
First we cut the breasts and legs from our goose. For a description of this process, see Poultry Cutting.
Rendering the Fat
Even though the choice fat around the breasts and legs is going into our confit, there is still lots of fat to be rendered from the goose. Look for fatty trim … Continue reading.
This week I cut up a chicken from Greens, Eggs, and Ham. The bird was massive. Happily I was able to try a few different preparations. First was a ballotine, which is a portion of boned meat made into a single, flat sheet of flesh, which is then rolled around a stuffing, cooked, and served hot or cold.”Boning” by the way is the removal of bones from meat. The modern English speaker has extreme difficulty with this word, and so “de-boning” is becoming the more common verb.
Here is the leg and thigh:
To bone the meat, make a cut to expose the length of the leg bone, which should then separate fairly easily from the flesh.
Repeat the … Continue reading.