That's right: Big Boy. Only he wasn't a dinner guest - he was the dinner.
Big Boy ended his walk on Death Row on Tuesday, when we took him to the local chicken slaughter house. Even though this was a return trip for us, it wasn't a whole lot easier than the first time.
When we brought him home I looked at the skinny, long-legged carcass in the plastic bag, thought of his three brothers in the chest freezer, and deliberately put him in the fridge instead. No more delaying: it was time to see if we could actually eat a chicken we raised.
I did a bit of research before I started cooking. According to the experts, since Buff Orpingtons aren't meat birds, Big Boy was likely to be scrawny (which he was) and tough, which meant I had to chose my cooking method carefully. I opted for Coq au Vin (the two-day Alton Brown version) and got started yesterday.
The first step was to cut the carcass into portion-sized pieces. I have broken down chickens before, but never like this: a full 30 minutes of wrestling with kitchen shears and sharp knives later, Big Boy was finally in pieces. And what funny pieces. I have never seen such long skinny drumsticks, and such concave breasts. The meat was very dark, and those thighs! Muscular hardly says it.
After 90 minutes of preliminary preparation yesterday, an overnight sleepover in a winy marinade and three hours in the oven today, we finally sat down - with some trepidation - to a Big Boy dinner. We cheated a bit by stripping the meat off the bones, so we weren't faced with a leg in our dinner bowls, and that made a difference. The meat's texture was more like beef than chicken: it was tender from its long slow cooking, but with long fibers like a piece of roast beef. And it had a much stronger taste than the chicken we're used to eating.
The final verdict: we'll eat the other three roosters in our freezer, but I don't think either of us will really look forward to it, just from a culinary perspective. But we both feel like we passed the farmer test, and will look with open minds at the possibility of raising meat birds (which should produce plumper, more chicken-like meat) in the spring.
Thanks, Big Boy. You'll make good leftovers.