Thursday, April 7, 2011

fun, fun, fun, fundamentals!

i buy my chickens whole & you should too!
the breasts are great for grilling or pan-searing, the legs are great for braising and make excellent curries and soups, the bones make a serious stock and the wings are a tasty treat.

here's how to butcher a chicken: 

this is a whole chicken from shani's farm - it's 8 and 1/2 lbs so it sort of resembles a turkey... it's amazing how much better free-range chicken tastes than the factory raised junk at the grocery store. chicken in the store is injected with water so that you pay more by weight and the flavour just doesn't compare. 
in this photo there is also one of my fav knives. typically i prefer japanese style - the blades are thinner, more delicate and slice, rather than smoosh, tomatoes & tuna. however, this is a wusthof (german) boning knife. when i first walked into le cordon bleu, i think they saw me coming. i didn't know a stitch about knives and what i needed and walked out with a wusthof $1100 knife kit - most of which i no longer use. this boning knife is the exception. i've had it for about 6 years now and it still holds an edge and does a number on all the proteins that cross my path. if you're in the market for a great boning knife buy this one! otherwise, just check for something with a sturdy blade and sharp point. but i would recommend japanese for everything else, macs and globals are my fav (shun if you have money to burn). there is a full set of globals at costco (random) that i have my eye, now i just need to save up some dough...

ok back to chicken.

this doesn't look too appetizing... but you have to cut the wing off and it's easy if you flip the bird over and 'pop' the joint - it sounds so hardcore, and what is extra hilarious, is that i was watching glee and doing this during commercials!

then cut in by the legs - they will naturally separate from the body.

again, it looks totally gross - but that's why you buy my food so i can do all the dirty work! if you're doing it at home, just remember to let the chicken show you what to do - cut around the joints, not through them, and follow the line of the muscles.

then flip it back over and cut down the breastbone to separate the meat from the bones. use the tip of your knife for this and run it along the bones so you don't waste any prize meat. also, make sure to cut around the wishbone (not too tasty).

this is four chickens - holy camoly...
the breasts will be herb-roasted to accompany a creamy mushroom risotto, the legs have been braised for chicken, leek, bacon & broccoli pies and thai chicken & rice soup, and, when this photo was taken, the bones were already roasting for an epic chicken stock, oh, and i baked and ate the wings myself, delicioso!

in my opinion, thomas kellar is the best chef in north america. he has an awesome cookbook called ad hoc at home and he has much better pictures than i of how to butcher a chicken - buy it. it is a great resource and shows you how to simplify restaurant quality food for cooking at home. when i used to teach cooking classes i always struggled with explaining restaurant techniques & terms to home cooks, but this book gave me so many tips and ideas for putting everything in terms that people could actually understand and relate to.

then there was the beef...

beef shanks from getaway farm. low in fat and high in flavour. shanks are not tender at all, but after a long braise they are ridiculous - again another reason to let me do the cooking :)
they've been marinating in wine, garlic and herbs and will be cooked up into a rich, italian osso buco. typically it's done with veal, but that's not very nice, so i'm using beef. i'm going to serve it with parmesan polenta, greens, and gremolata, and it sould be rad!

good luck with your chickens.

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