Friday, October 21, 2011

The Chicken Dance

Let's talk birds, shall we?

When I was little ... let's say, 4 years old or so, my family lived in Weare, NH- a spacious and lesser populated town somewhere between Concord and Manchester. We had a large yard and no neighbors for miles, the closest of which kept turkeys. Now every once in a while those turkeys would break out of their respective pens and wander the woods nearby ... which eventually let to my parent's yard. On one sunny Autumn afternoon, while my sister Melissa and I were playing with a pink Barbie convertible on the grass, we heard a warbling off in the distance. We instantly knew what was coming. We have no idea why they were notoriously violent birds. Chasers. They were chasers. Like fat, squat, feathered demons. And when we heard them coming we started to run for the house, sacrificing our toys for our own safety. Damn those birds were fast. They chased us up to the green house that lead to the living room. They chased us into the house. Melissa made a b-line for our bedroom and hid beneath her bed. I cowered in a corner of the living room. My mother was startled by the commotion and came running from the kitchen to see the most brazen of the feathered mob perched precariously close to our baby sister, Melody, asleep in her baby chair on the couch. Mom probably grabbed a broom, a shovel, a spatula- I can't remember- but she went into Mama-Bear mode and shooed the offenders back through the green house and on to the granite steps. Once they were safely outside I grew brave enough to peer at them beyond the large glass doors. I have a visceral memory of placing my hand against the glass and watching the largest male peck violently at it.

So now you can understand why I don't like turkeys. Or really birds in general. I like hens; docile, well handled hens. I have no doubt that when I someday own chickens I will have no problem killing them for meat. All I'll need is some instruction on safety, the rest will come from somewhere in my subconscious.

What's the whole point of this, you might be saying to yourself right now?? I like cooking birds. For myriad reasons. The primary of these being that they are delicious. They are also multi-faceted. There are few foods that can go as far as a chicken or turkey can. I recommend roasting them when possible. I did so this week and have finally used the last remains to create some healthy chicken soup with wild rice. Here is the evolution of my chicken conquest:

1) Roasted. Rubbed in olive oil and whatever spices I feel like tasting- the chief of these is garlic. I like to roast all birds with a combination of potatoes (both russet and sweet), onions, carrots, and garlic cloves. Then I'll add some chicken stock to keep the bird moist and add more flavor without wigging out on sodium.

2) After devouring most of that as dinner, I'll take the meat off the bones (which I save in the freezer until I'm ready to make more stock) and separate the veggies. I like to make a curried chicken salad right away, save a bit for sandwiches, always saving some for soup later.

3) Those veggies go a long way. I like a nice mash out of them to eat as a side with another meal later.

4) SOUP! Glorious cold fighting, digestion warming, memory invoking soup.

A roasting bird is the hallmark of a kitchen owner that knows how to stretch a dollar in the healthiest of ways. When you can get a free-range, humanely raised and organic bird. You'll find that they're slimmer than their agro-business cousins, but that's a good thing. They're healthier in spirit as well as constitution. And that means tasty results.

The weekend is finally here and we're faced with packing up our lives and moving to a new house. It's all very exciting, but slightly exhausting. Wish us luck! Happy weekend, ya'll!

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