Blog #1 – Chicken
I eat mainly plants, but not entirely, adding limited amounts of meat and fish. And I believe that one of the best ways to get their benefits is in soup stock, where you can capture their nutrients and avoid their fat.
“A chicken in every pot,” Roosevelt promised Americans in the middle of the last Great Depression. “Waste not, want not,” was the motto. Times were hard.
The idea of buying a chicken already cut up was unheard of for all but the very wealthy. I still find it somewhat strange when I see the neat packages of boneless breasts with outrageous prices. Whenever possible buy a whole chicken. With a little practice, it will disappear into various pots and packages in less than a half an hour and the time is well spent, with the chicken providing breast meat for at least four main course servings, the basis for 8 bowls of rich, nutritious soup, and enough thigh and leg meat for two servings of chicken balls. I got 12 oz of breast meat and 10 oz of thigh and leg meat off my last 4.5 lb. organic chicken which cost $16.00.
($16.00 plus a few dollars worth of vegetables and a starch and you’re getting 14 meals for about a $1.15 each).
Here’s how I cut up a chicken.
With a little practice, you can reduce a bird to its useful parts in 15 minutes, but there is a learning curve.
First cut off the wings by bending each wing away from the breast to find the joint and then to cut through it. Save the wings for the stock pot.
Next cut off the legs and thighs by slicing through the skin between the thigh and breast, and then bending the leg and thigh back to reveal the joint and cutting through it.
Cut through the joint between the leg and thigh. Cut the meat off by making a single cut down each bone, then pulling the flesh to one side and scraping the meat off the bone. Remove the skin. Remove the largest sinews from the leg meat. Save the meat for grinding into chicken balls or cut up into small squares (1/3rd of an inch across) for soup. Toss the bones and skin in the stock pot.
Take the skin off the breasts and, using a sharp knife cut, down the breast bone and peel the breast off the bone on one side and then the other. Try to cut around the wish bone.
You start with water and add vegetables and chicken parts. I list some vegetables below, but you can use almost any mild tasting vegetable. In addition to the list below, try celeriac, eggplant, lettuce, green beans, uncooked lentils, corn cobs, and bean sprouts. Avoid most cole crops (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage). Get in the practice of throwing vegetable trimmings into a ziplock bag and putting them in the freezer for use in stock when you make it.
- 16 cups of water
- 1 large large onion (and or 2 large leeks)
- 2-3 celery stalks (including leaves)
- 2-3 large carrots
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- 1 large turnip
- Stems from greens
- Mushrooms and/or their stems
- Summer squash (unpeeled) or winter squash peeled.
- Bay leaves
- 5 or 6 black pepper corns
- Salt to taste
Coarsely shop the vegetables into pieces no more than 1 inch square and add to the water with the herbs, salt and pepper. Add the chicken carcass, wings, giblets, neck and liver, skin and other leftovers. If you can find chicken feet, add a few to the pot for extra protein and gelatin. (Unfortunately most chicken feet today are shipped to China, but not by your local farmers! Another reason to shop with them.)
After the stock cools, leave it overnight in the refrigerator. You can then lift the coagulated fat from the surface and the stock is fat free, turning it into chicken broth. (Heat the fat in pan with some sliced onion until all the water is removed and the onion is a toasty brown). Keep the rendered fat in jar in the refrigerator if you want to make the world’s best latkis or chicken liver pate. (More later)
Next week: Chicken soup.