Last week I helped with a chicken harvest for the first time. My parents-in-law had raised twenty eight birds to maturity on their property in Lac St. Anne County.
The chickens were killed with an axe to the neck, severing the head.
After a couple minutes of twitching the bodies were held by the feet and dipped in steaming water to loosen the feathers. We had two “turkey fryer” propane burners heating 5 gallon pots of water to 150°F. The chickens were dunked a few times, just until the wing and tail feathers pulled out easily, which took less than 60 seconds. If done properly this helps the feathers release easily in the plucking machine, without cooking any of the … Continue reading.
Schmaltz is the Yiddish word for rendered fat, or grease. It is taken from the German Schmalz. I wrote about how to render pork fat here, and the two preparations Grammelschmalz and Schmalzfleisch. While schmaltz can technically refer to rendered fat from any animal, obviously in the context of Jewish cooking we aren’t talking about pork fat. While goose fat was common in Europe, the Jewish emigrants arriving in North America found chicken fat much more readily available, and this remains the default schmaltz in Jewish communities in the new world.
There is quite a different ratio of fat to lean in a chicken than a hog. It is easy to cut away large slabs … Continue reading.
Really you shouldn’t end up with an excess of chicken skin very often. The skin is a delicious and coveted part of fried chicken and roast chicken, and if it’s well-rendered it can also go into some cold, day-after preparations like chicken salad sandwiches.
But if you are shredding leftover chicken to make chicken noodle soup or chicken stew, you may want to set the skin aside for another application.
Here’s how to turn cold, flabby, leftover chicken skin into golden brown, crispy pieces of crackling. Line a sheet tray with parchment and lay out the pieces of chicken skin so they are flat. Place another sheet of parchment on top, and then another sheet tray on … Continue reading.
Unlike beef stew, which I make from fresh cuts of beef, chicken stew is foremost a way of reclaiming and elevating leftover roast chicken.
There’s not much point in stewing chickens these days. Old recipes like coq au vin are from a time when we actually let some of our birds grow old enough to be tough and require stewing to tenderize. Basically all of the chickens that we eat now are less than two months old, so their meat is extremely tender. Stewing these birds only dries them out.
However, if you happen to have leftover roast chicken, shredding the meat and coating it in the sauce of a stew returns some moisture and savour to the meat.
In … Continue reading.
Buying whole animals forces you to eat their various components in rigid proportion.
For instance, if you go out on a Wednesday and eat two dozen chicken wings, you have eaten the upper appendages of six chickens. If you had to purchase those chickens as whole birds, you would then be stuck with a dozen breasts and a dozen legs that you would need to consume before you ever ate wings again.
All this to say I don’t prepare chicken wings at home very much. But I love them, and sometimes I’ll squirrel away the wings from my chickens, accumulating them over several months, until I have enough to justify preparing them bar-style.
Anatomy of a Chicken Wing. If … Continue reading.
Usually I don’t post about something til I’m confident I have a best practice down pat. I have to say that there’s one important point in my fried chicken technique that I am waffling on: I’m torn between the winning flavour of buttermilk-brined chicken, and the superior texture of dry-rubbed chicken.
The Chicken. Frying chicken is a bit of a balancing act: you want the crust to develop the perfect, deep golden brown at the very instant the meat reaches the proper temperature. If you were to take an entire leg from a large chicken and deep fry it, the exterior would get much too dark by the time the meat cooked through.
For this reason I like … Continue reading.
As I mentioned in the Cutting Poultry post, one of the chief pleasures of buying whole birds from the market is that you get a bunch of bones with which to make stock.
You can make a small amount of light stock with one chicken carcass, or you can freeze the bones and collect a few carcasses so that you can make a whole pot. You can cut up your chicken, raw, into largely boneless pieces, and save the raw bones for stock. Or, if you roast the whole bird and pull the meat off at the table, you can save the cooked carcass for stock.
All the bones of the bird can go in the stock. The neck and … Continue reading.
Truthfully I never truss poultry.
The theory behind trussing is that birds, in their natural, irregular shape, do not cook evenly: the slender, exposed limbs, the wings and the legs, cook faster than the breasts. This is true, no doubt, but the legs, made of dark meat, need to reach a higher temperature than the breasts to be cooked through. By leaving the legs un-trussed and exposed, they reach their higher finishing temperature at pretty much the same time as the breasts. For this reason the only thing I do to prepare a bird for roasting is bend the wingtips and tuck them behind the bird’s back.
At any rate, Thomas Keller holds trussing as a fundamental skill, so I … Continue reading.
Fried chicken should be eaten off the bone. Following is the classic way to break down a whole chicken into boney pieces that can be dredged and deep-fried. Traditionally there is a lot of cutting through the bones, which is fun but can leave little shards in the meat. I’ve cleaned up the method somewhat by separating at the joints where possible. Even so, I wouldn’t cut this way if I were feeding small children.
We start by removing the legs at the hip. Bend the leg backwards to expose the joint, then cut with a knife.
To separate the thigh and drumstick, bend the knee against it’s will until it snaps, then cut through the joint. These are the … Continue reading.
If you spend enough time with culinary types, eventually you’re going to hear some douchebag call a duck breast a magret.
Magret is a term from Gascony, a Basque region of southwestern France. This is the spiritual home of modern foie gras: the liver of ducks and geese that have been forcibly fattened by a process called gavage. The many products and byproducts of these fattened birds form the pillars of the remarkable cuisine of Gascony. For instance, the rendered subcutaneous fat is the main cooking fat in the region, and is used to make confit.
Traditionally, magret refers to the lean portion of a bird that has been fattened for foie and confit, namely … Continue reading.