Friday, December 5, 2008
Roast Chicken: Lesson in Dissection
Every once in a while, I cook something that makes me feel classic. You know? Like I'm cooking in slow-mo, bathed in yellow sepia colors and maybe wearing a hand-sewn apron in my farm kitchen. Alright, maybe you're not Farmer Betty when you cook, but sometimes it's there and sometimes it feels awesome.
Since I discovered roast chicken so many moons ago, it's been a staple in my life. There is nothing better than a perfectly roasted chicken leg. However, I don't actually remember roasting a whole chicken before. It could have happened, but it's not ringing any bells. So with sepia-washed thoughts of rich chicken stock and fresh chicken salad, I picked me up a hen.
There's something comforting about holding a raw chicken in my bare hands. It's got a solid weight that makes me a feel a bit earthy. It's almost like holding a baby. Just a baby that I'm super excited about rubbing with spices and cooking under high heat, which is possibly one reason why I'm never having children. However, I didn't have twine on hand, so I decided to roast it on a cookie sheet, breast-side down with the wings and thighs tucked under. This might have been a mistake. I took the chicken out when it was "done", then realized that it had a meat... popper thingy in the breast that of course didn't pop. But was it because it was held down or is it not done? Dilema... Then I noticed that the thigh area was like a balloon with liquid bulging the skin out and looking like a very funky blister. So in it goes again, breast-side up. After a while, it's browned and I'm sick of the smoke-haze* that's settled over my kitchen and living room, so I take it out. Still not popped. To which I said, screw you popper of doom! It's done! Notice unpopped popper.
*Tip: I normally put olive oil over my thighs before roasting. It's awesomeness incarnate. However, on a whole chicken it slides down to the roasting juices, pops, and makes your oven smell funny and sometimes smoke. Don't think I'll do that next time.
Moving on, I let it rest for a while then whipped out my knife. Now, I know how to carve a bird (even though I'm more a fan of the rip and pull method). I'm cool that way. But I'm not interested in just the obvious parts. I want to know all those Southern cook secrets about the best hidden parts and what to do with intestines. So I now present to you: Chicken Butt.
And Oysters: Before
Um... they don't have a whole lot of chicken intestine pictures out there that say, "Hey! This is the heart, delicious when cooked in butter." So I had to do some searching. Still, I couldn't find anything that said I needed to start with cooked or uncooked chicken, so I gave it a miss this time. I'm also afraid of seperating the parts I want from the parts I'm too afraid to want. Next time.
Anyways, the oysters are dark meat and have a firmer texture than the rest of the dark meat. It's said that they taste more chickeny too. Well, the texture was nice, but I don't think it tasted more like chicken. I actually think they were a little blander, so they got torn up with the rest of the white meat for chicken salad and dumplings. The tail... the tail! I might break a few ankles for that piece. It's two tiny bites worth of crispy skin, fat, and a smidgen of meat. So I think this roast and exploration was a success. I'll be updating soon on what I've done with my bird, except for the legs and wings which I like plain. Happy hunting!