Sunday, July 19, 2015

Culinary Corner: Working with a GFF Whole Chicken

We continue our series of Culinary Corner blog posts by Elizabeth Hinds with a useful tutorial for working with a whole chicken.  It is interesting to read Elizabeth's approach and compare it to our own.  Typically, Tammy will put the whole bird into a crock pot and then pull the meat off the bones after it is cooked.  We have gotten as many as 10 meals out of one bird, if you count soup from the chicken stock we make.

Regardless of what you adopt for your approach, it is clear that a whole bird is not all that difficult to handle - and you can get several meals out of one bird.  For those who have interest, we do have more birds available from our Spring batch and the Summer batch will be ready in about 9 weeks. Please contact us.
As I unwrapped my bird from the Genuine Faux Farm, one thing was very clear: this was one strong bird. The legs and wings in particular were massive (I can only assume from chasing the other chickens around and running away from friendly farm hands bringing water).

Sometimes I like to roast chickens whole, but more often than not, I end up cutting it up into its component parts to get a whopping four meals for two people out of one bird. When you completely cut up a whole bird you’re left with a lot of parts:
  • Breast meat- good for broiling and grilling. 
  • Thighs- best in braises (think crockpot!) 
  • Wings-game night! 
  • Offals- You can soak the liver in milk for about an hour to get rid of the metallic taste before sautéing. 
  •  Bones- Stock. I often save bones in the freezer and make the stock as needed for sick days and cold winter nights. 

Trying to cut up a whole raw bird can be intimidating at first, but with clear instruction and a few tools, it’s actually quite easy and very rewarding. You need only four things: a plastic cutting board, the sharpest boning knife you can find, a baking tray to organize the parts as you cut them, and of course, a chicken.

Step 1: Remove the wishbone.
This can be a little tough with the GFF birds; in addition to strong muscles, these guys have strong connective tissue holding it all together. The wishbone does not HAVE to be removed, but if you don’t take it out before you start carving, its presence will block key access to parts of the breast meat.

To begin, feel around the neck and locate the wishbone with your fingers. Using a sharp boning knife, run the tip of the knife along the edge of the wishbone, then tease out the two long pieces with your fingers. 

Once you’ve exposed the length of the wishbone, use your knife to free the ends. Pull out the head of the wishbone with a firm tug.

Step 2: Remove the legs
Rather than starting right in on the breasts, it’s easiest to get the legs out of the way first. To remove the whole thigh, slice into the skin stretched across the leg and chest to expose the joints.

Once you’ve done this on both sides, take both legs firmly in both hands and pop the legs out of their sockets.

Before you can cut the legs clean off, you’ll need to release the meat attached to the tailbone.  There are a set of bones that run along either side of the tail; this is sometimes broken if tail feathers are tough to get out. To separate meat from bone, lay the knife flat against the bone as you slice in toward the tail. Repeat this cut on the other side to complete a V shape and leave the tail free.

Now we’re ready to take off the legs. Hold on to one of the legs and suspend the chicken so that the weight pulls the leg away from the body.

Cut in towards the body until you reach the backbone, then angle your knife so you’re cutting towards the tail and begin the careful and deliberate march back. The arrows in the picture above point to what’s known as the “oyster” of the chicken and it is very tender meat that you should try to cut out with the thigh. They bulge out on the back near the tail, and you should scoop around it with your knife as you move toward the tail.

At this point my camera died and we switched to the old iPhone.

Once you’ve cut around the oyster, continue the cut and navigate around the popped joint to cut the leg off completely.

Congratulations! You have your first piece free!

Repeat these steps on the other side to free the second leg.

Step 3: Remove the breasts with wings
Place the bird breast side up and run your finger along the spine of the breast bone. This is where you’ll make your first cut.

Starting at the neck and moving toward the tail, make one long clean cut along the spine of the breastbone. You’ll have likely cut to one side of the breastbone or the other, so whichever side is exposed is the first breast you’ll remove. Lay your knife perpendicular to the spine of the breast bone and slice along it to begin releasing the meat. 

Begin to cut away the breast by laying the blade of your knife flat against the breast plate and making long slices. Alternate slicing with the knife and using your fingertips to gently pull away meat and give you a better view of where you’re cutting, Angle your knife slightly toward the breastbone as you cut so no meat is left behind.

Once you’ve cut the meat away from the breast bone, it should only remain attached by the wing.

As you did with the thighs, pop the joint out of its socket to give yourself a clear view. Holding the bird up by the breast, cut through the exposed joint to separate the breast from the body.

This is what you’re left with!

Now that it’s off the body, the wing itself is very easy to remove. Just edge your knife up against the joint and slice it right off.

Now personally, I prefer to leave the skin on the breast for cooking. When you sear it in a pan, the skin acts as a protective barrier that moderates the heat and keeps it from getting too tough as it cooks, but it’s also an incredibly flavorful crispy treat. As for the wings, I save them up in the freezer until I have enough for a good sized appetizer. My favorite method for chicken wings is a good spice rub, then cook them low and slow in the crockpot. 

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