Every Saturday the owner of Sunworks Farm is at the Strathcona Market griddling his chicken sausages and doling samples to passers-by.
I’m usually wary of chicken sausages. They’re often dry and mealy with no structure. The main difficulty in making sausage from poultry is the very low ratio of fat to lean, nowhere near the desired 1:3 that is easily achieved with pork.
Anyways many years ago I gambled on the Sunworks chicken sausage sample and was happy to find it was one of the best I’d ever eaten. My pleasure quickly turned to curiosity and I wondered aloud how they made it so juicy. Was there … Continue reading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crisp, 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.
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 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.