Saturday, October 15, 2016

How To: The Chicken Dance

Don't worry... I'm not planning to teach the current generation some ridiculously crazy useless dance. The current generation knows enough of their own without my help! I am talking about the choreography behind how a family can use 1 chicken every week. 

Hopefully you've heard of the benefits of grass fed, free range, non GMO, pastured, "beyond organic" broilers.  ...Just the kind of broilers we raise on Bright Arrows Farm. Don't be fooled by tag words the industry uses to generate imagery of peaceful chickens living out their days surrounded by sunshine and fresh air... Phrases like "All Natural", "Naturally Raised", "Antibiotic Free", and even "Free Range" can mean wonderful things... But when applied by the USDA to industrially raised chicken, they mean precious little. 
I don't mean that to turn into a rabbit trail. All of that is to say: the ONLY chickens I recommend using are those grown by dedicated, earth stewarding, sustainable farmers whose methods you have questioned and KNOW! 

There are two ways that we offer broilers - whole or cut up. Cut up birds include: 2 boneless breasts, 2 wings, 2 chicken tenders, 2 leg/thigh pieces (joined), and the back with extra skin and neck for stock making. 

If you buy your birds already cut up, you have the choice of separating the pieces however you want and using them as needed. 

So in this post I'm going to talk about how to use a whole broiler every week.

Begin by thawing your chicken in your refrigerator for at least a day before you plan to cook it. Thawing the bird this way allows you to season it well before cooking, to ensure the best flavor.  Before placing your chicken in the pot, use a paper towel pat the bird dry. I season the bird (you can rub seasonings into or even under the skin) with salt, pepper, onion powder, and just a few leaves of dried rosemary. Often I add a drizzle of olive oil or spoon of coconut oil before cooking. You can cook the bird in the crock pot or in the oven. In most cases roasting the whole bird in the oven gives the best flavor and texture. Our personal favorite way to cook broilers is in enameled cast iron dutch ovens. 

Whatever you use to cook your birds, make sure that you place poultry (This includes ducks, chickens, and turkeys) breast down in the pot. This ensures that the white meat doesn't dry out as cooks, but stays moist and juicy!

On the night you cook your bird, enjoy the juicy flavor by serving it whole. My husband and I both enjoy the thigh best, so those are gone the first night. If you have a bigger family, you'll obviously have less left over. After dinner I pick whatever is left off the bone and store the bones and the chicken in separate containers overnight. The bones and whatever juice cooked off the chicken will be used tomorrow for making bone broth. From a 5 pound chicken you can expect 6 - 8 cups of boneless skinless chicken (total). If you want, you can freeze your shredded chicken. Most recipes call for 2 cups of shredded or cubed chicken per recipe, so keep that in mind if you decide to freeze it. 

A seasoned farm wife showed me her secret for cubing chicken... When de-boning, she separates the chicken into large chunks. Then, with a clean sharp pair of kitchen scissors, she simply cuts it up into cubes any size she wants! I've tried it and these easy chicken cubes make for the BEST white chilis or soups you can imagine! 

Now you have about 6 cups of shredded/cubed chicken to use any way you want! Since it will easily keep in a sealed container in your refrigerator for a week, you can spread your chicken meals out and alternate with another protein source some nights. 

Here are some of our favorite ways to use this now boneless skinless chicken:
  • Chicken chili
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Thai chicken curry
  • Any casserole that calls for chicken! 
  • Homemade pizza
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken enchiladas 
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Asian stir fry

We want our chickens to be eaten and loved. We don't want our chickens to be hoarded, but shared openly and enjoyed often! In future posts I'll be going over the economics and analysis of our chickens. 

In the meantime, let us know your favorite ways to use a whole chicken! Share your favorite recipes! 

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