Category Archives: Poultry

Duck Breast

Scored, raw duck breastIf 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.

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken drumstickCrisp, delicate, golden skin.  Moist, tender, well-seasoned flesh.  A whole bird, brought to the table and broken into pieces, distributed amongst the diners according to their personal preferences.  This is the beauty and simplicity of the ideal roast chicken dinner.

You can go to ridiculous lengths to roast the perfect chicken – (see the In Search of Perfection episode on roast chicken, which involves brining, soaking in water, scalding three times, cooking in the oven for five hours, then searing on the stove top…) – but with a fraction of the effort you can have mostly the same results as the most complicated procedures.

The following process results in by far the highest ratio of eating quality to effort.  All … Continue reading.

Cutting Poultry

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.

A whole chicken from Four Whistle Farms

 

Removing the Legs

The legs pull easily from the body.  You can see a good deal of loose skin between the leg and body.

Pulling the leg away from the body of the chicken

Cut the skin and pull the leg farther from the body.

Cutting the skin between the leg and body of the chicken

Bend the leg behind … Continue reading.

Pheasant Pot Pie

Hanging pheasantsLast 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.

The Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is certainly one of the finest gifts made by the New World to the Old.

-Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste

A Thanksgiving turkey, fresh from the ovenThe 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.

Turkey Ham

Turkey in the brineOne 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.

Apple-Braised Grouse

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.[1]

Mr. McLarney trained his pointer in his backyard with a … Continue reading.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

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

Leftover turkey and wild rice soupToday 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.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

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.

Leftover chicken

Making the chicken salad

The finished chicken salad on toast, with tomatoes and lettuce

Duck Liver Pâté

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.

The pork and duck liver, seasoned and left to marinate

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.

Chilling the grinder parts in ice-water

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.