Friday, December 3, 2010

Guess who came to dinner

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.


Paula said...

Huh. And everything I've read about the heritage breeds is that they taste more 'chickeny'.

I think the difference is that meat birds are usually slaughtered pretty young, so they're more tender (aside from the huge breasts).

Maybe all you ought to do with the older birds is cook the living dickens out of them for the broth, and then cook them a total of 24 hours for cat or dog food. My neighbor across the street in Florida used to buy huge bags of chicken wings for twenty-nine cents a pound and then would cook them for 24 hours in a crock pot in the garage (she couldn't stand the smell). Cooked that long, the bones become mush and are safe. I would cook some broth for me first, and then replace the water and finish cooking them for the pets. Just an idea. I mean if you decide you really don't want to eat them again.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

As you've learned lessons about farming and shared them, I am learning too!

Enjoy your weekend!!

Flartus said...

I'll try to remember to ask Miss Chef if she has any ideas for cooking old, tough birds. Coq au vin was a good choice, though.

One thing you could do is cut the meat across the fibers, as you would do with tougher cuts of beef.

Glad to know you made it through that first test. When Miss Chef and I first "converted" to local food, we realized the importance of respecting the life we had taken, by not wasting it. So once the animal's been killed, I see it as disrespect to not eat it. (Does that make any sense?)

Oh, and I'm betting those bones will make fabulous stock!

Natalie said...

Rooster Recipe:
Prepare and season bird, place in oven. Find a stone and place in oven next to bird. When you can pierce stone with a fork, turn bird over and continue roasting. (credit to my mother, who once butchered and cooked a mean little rooster... he made a mean little dinner!)

So funny- the word verification is "belly."

You are doing right, like Flartus says: ... once the animal's been killed, I see it as disrespect to not eat it.

Toni aka irishlas said...

I think it's wonderful the two of you were able to see this through full cycle. I hope I am able to do the same thing when the time comes.

I'm thinking of raising some meat chickens in the spring, but, I have trepidations when it comes to the slaughter. I really want to know how to dress a chicken and get it freezer ready. Yeah, yeah, I know, knit little sweaters :-)

The recipe sounded yums! Only thing I could think of is the crock pot for tough birds. I like Paula's idea, too.

Paula said...

Ha ha hah!

I laughed out loud at Natalie's mom's recipe for rooster- that was funny!

Miriam said...

Me too! Thanks for the belly laugh, Natalie!

And thanks to all of you for your great suggestions. Flartus is right - we need to respect the roosters by making good use of them. So I think we'll make stock with the remaining three, and then cut up the meat for Frankie, Petunia and William to enjoy.

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