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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Recherche des Poulets Perdus

Memories of Chickens Past, or, FridgeHenge.

Soup's On!

Here at Love and Cooking HQ we have been on a Mad Skillz improvement project.

You see, we (and I include thecats in this) really like roast chicken. And we (well, I) have a really good general recipe, thanks to the fab-yoo-lous and highly recommended guide to Getting Dinner on the Table, How to Cook without a Book.

Roast Chicken

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Wash a whole chicken.
Cut the wings off.
Cut the back out.
Whack that bird to make it lie flat.
Drizzle some olive oil in your roasting pan.
Put the bird in, skin side up.
Lift the skin up and season the meat under the skin. Regular old salt will do, but I really like Trinidad Seasoning from Penzey's Spices. It's fab on roast pork too. Get a big jar.
As I have a lemon tree, I slice a lemon up and stick the slices under the skin as well.
Put the back, wings, and neck in a freezer bag and freeze for stock.
Stick the pan in the oven. Bird should be ready in 35-45 minutes, depending on the size.
Be sure to clean your cutting board, scissors, and knife off with boiling water. (Safety first!)

Where the Skillz Upgrade comes in is that I was unhappy with the way I was cutting the back out of the chicken ... mystery bones ended up with the leg sometimes and not others, and the whole thing usually looked like Freddie Kruger had gotten to it.

So I was determined to learn how to do this properly. I mentioned this as a New Year's resolution at the forums at C & Z, and I was given a lot of encouragement and thrown some helpful tips. One of which reminded me that I have a copy of Essentials of Cooking, which has pretty good pix of the process.

So I've been cutting up a lot of chickens lately. I felt like ole Freddie at first, but now I think I've got the basics down. I'm taking a short vacation from roast bird, or I would show one in its Golden Lemony Goodness.

This has generated a lot of chicken parts in my freezer. So much so that the door was starting to have trouble closing. It was time to Do Something About It, in other words, make some chicken stock.

frozen bird bits

Mine is really basic; I put the parts in the pan, cover with filtered water, and bring to a boil. Then I reduce the heat and cook it till the meat falls off the bones, which takes a couple-three hours.

Have a bowl handly to dump the scum/foam into; once the scum has more or less finished rising, you can let it simmer away with only occasional attention from you (checking cooking level, replenishing water).

You can add carrots, celery, bayleaves, or other herbs if you like.


When it looks done, strain it into a fridge-worthy container. I like using my Pyrex quart measures. Use the finest strainer you have available to avoid the little bits getting into the broth. Discard the meat and bones (or cool them and feed them to your pet). Stick the broth in the fridge so that the fat may rise to the top and be easily removed. For food safety purposes, multiple smaller containers are better than one huge one.

Then later, of course, take the fat off the top. It's all about the MEAT.

This was A-One, primo, finest kind chicken broth. It jiggled so you KNEW it was good.

shake it!

I got seven cups of broth. I used one quart to make a variant on my quickie Italian Wedding soup.

It was even quicker than that as I left the onion out, boiled the carrots and celery in the broth as I simmered the meatballs, and left the eggdrop out. I used chard instead of escarole, which seems to be hard to find these days. It made two big bowls. Le Yummers. Meatballs and tender vegetables, what's not to like?

(I had some Trader Joe's globes of meaty goodness in the fridge, so the cleanup theme continued.)

I used the rest to make chicken-noodle soup for someone who was in need of it.

If I have time, I will detail my other meaty adventures from the freezer. (no time to really cook this week)

Oh I love Ms. Anderson's book, too, and I do roast chix her way. I get the butcher to cut the backs out - is that cheating? But lately the help at my local meat counter has seemed too flummoxed. So I just get it cut into 8 parts and save the backs (and sometimes wings) for stock. Probably more wasteful. I'm really squeamish about cutting up chix however so I doubt I will ever practice the way you have. Well done.

My fave new toy is the pressure cooker- it makes chicken broth in 30 minutes. Total time is really longer - bringing it up to pressure, 30 minutes to cook, and then you must let it release pressure naturally which takes another thirty minutes. Still, it made miraculously flavorful chicken stock in an hour total.

Do you ever roast two chix at once the way Pamela recommends? Do you ever cut up potatoes and onions and roast them alongside? Do you like her supper soup recipes? (I do).
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