Methods & Madness… Class 11: Chicken Part 1
Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School
What comes to mind when you hear the word poultry? Hopefully, it’s not chicken McNuggets! Actually, the word poultry refers to any domesticated bird used for human consumption including chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, turkey, pheasant, mute swan and emu.
This week’s blog focuses on chicken because, according to the USDA, chickens are the number one species consumed by Americans. I’m not a contributor to that stat, but after sampling some great recipes from class, I may convert. To understand my sordid past with chickens on the farm, please read my other chicken blog.
This week we learned how to cook your chicken using dry heat methods such as broiling, grilling, roasting, baking, sautéing, pan-frying, and deep-frying.
Something to Crow About
No matter how you cook your chicken, it can be a tasty and nutritious meal. No wonder chicken is the world’s primary source of animal protein. Chicken is also a great source of niacin, protein, vitamin B6 and selenium. It is low in fat and cholesterol and has no carbs.
If health conscious, you’ll be glad to know that chicken isolates most of its fat in the skin. Therefore, you can remove the skin after cooking if calories are a concern.
The Skinny on Chicken Breasts
A four-ounce chicken breast with skin is around 188 calories, 49 percent of which are from fat. It contains 10.5 grams total fat. The same size breast without the skin is around 118 calories, with 11 percent of calories coming from fat. It contains 1.4 grams of total fat.
In French cooking school, we don’t worry about that stuff as the words “fat” and “flavor” seem to be interchangeable.
Poultry is classified by age. The older the bird, the more pronounced the flavor. The younger the bird, the more tender the flesh.
- Poussin (poo-SAN) – weighs in at about 1 ½ lbs at the tender age of 1-month-old, has a delicate flavor and little fat. In the U.S., it’s an alternative name for a small-sized cross-breed chicken called Rock Cornish game hen.
- Broiler/Fryer – is 2 ½ months old and weighs 3-4 lbs. Can be broiled, roasted, or fried. Not good for stewing.
- Roaster – is 5-6 mos. old and has more fat, making it a juicy bird. Usually roasted whole, but may also be cut up and fried.
- Capon – is a castrated male weighing in at 7-9 lbs. Contains relatively more white meat. Tender and great for roasting.
- Stewing Hens – Former egg layers around 1-year-old and weighing 8-9 lbs. Big on flavor, but tougher. Best used in stews and soups.
Buying Fresh Poultry
- Purchasing a whole fresh chicken is cheaper, fresher and moister.
- Grade A products are the best.
- Look for plump bodies, no wrinkles, and free from bruises or broken bones. Crystallization means it was formerly frozen.
- Meat should be cool to the touch, which means it has been adequately stored.
Who’s the Real Chicken Here?
There are many advantages to cutting poultry yourself. It is fresher, costs less, and has a lower risk of being contaminated. For me, the disadvantage is a hefty therapy bill to deal with my butchering animal issues. (Sigh)
In class we were handed a Broiler/Fryer chicken and one big knife. I felt woozy and the onset of Alektorophobia. Still, I forged ahead.
Our instructor fearlessly led the way, and we bravely followed. It was awkward and emotionally upsetting, but I survived with success. FYI, after cutting up the whole bird, I didn’t find any chicken nuggets. Hmm…
The process is the same for all types of poultry. To see a video on how to cut up Poultry click here.
Rona made Fried Chicken with gravy; to get the recipe and learn about other poultry such as game birds, click here to read Rona’s blog.
I was partnered with Mindy, a woman with sympathetic chicken issues. Together, we managed to make a fabulous chicken dish of Poussin with Apples, Brandy and Cream. It’s easy to make, and the best value is no cutting required.
We started with four Poussins, apples, shallots and pearl onions. You can substitute with Cornish Rock Hens and regular onions.
We rubbed the Poussins with melted butter, seasoned, and then tied the birds up (also called trussing). To see a trussing demo, click here.
If the chicken isn’t trussed, hot air circulates in the bird’s cavity, causing it to overcook. This dries out the breast before the legs and thighs are done.
We roasted the onions and shallots first, then added the birds and apples. After 40 minutes we checked the internal temperature to make sure it had reached 165 degrees. This is an effective way to prevent illness, yet not overcook your meat.
Pan deglazed with brandy, then cream added. Use apple juice or water as a brandy substitution.
Poussin with Apples, Brandy and Cream
From New School of Cooking
- 2 oz. melted butter
- 12 pearl onions, peeled (I would use more)
- 12 shallots, peeled
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (we used Granny Smith)
- 4 whole Poussin or Cornish Rock Hens
- Salt and pepper
- 2 oz. soft butter, almost melted
- ¾ C. brandy or cognac (can use apple juice or water instead)
- ¾ C. cream
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Toss the onions and shallots with the melted butter. Place in a roasting pan and roast 20-30 minutes or until soft.
- Meanwhile, rub the birds down with soft butter. Season with salt and pepper. Truss. (click here for video)
- Place the birds and apple slices atop the shallots and onions, and roast another 30-40 minutes.
- When birds are done (internal temperature of 165) remove them from pan, along with onions and apples. Deglaze the roasting pan with brandy and reduce by half. Add cream, and reduce to a sauce consistency.
- Season and serve over Poussins, apples and onions.
In the past I may have been a chicken in the kitchen, but after this week’s class, I’m feeling more confident about my poultry skills. Next week we’ll tackle poultry preparation using moist heat, and perhaps by then I’ll have the chicken nugget mystery solved!
Quote of the Day
“Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.” – Walt Kelly
“And neither is McNuggets for chicken.” – Cathy Arkle
…and then she paused for thought
Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.
You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.Yum
So, would Emu be a stewing bird for the whole town?
Why I do believe so. I ate Emu in Australia and it is definitely a stewing bird. I don’t think they stewed it enough as it was still too tough for me.
I’ve had Emu, but what does a mute swan taste like? Where would it be purchased?
What about ducks, geese and quail? More food for thought…
Mute swan probably like chicken 🙂
Whole Foods carries duck. You can buy “exotic fowl” at Farmer Market Poultry as well as Puritan Poultry on 3rd & Fairfax in Los Angeles.
Thanks. My neighbor found a place where you can buy seasoned quail breasts. They smoked them once for us and I’ve been dreaming about them since! Has anyone seen them for sale?
What a lovely recipe and excellent discussion. I’m going to try my hand at chicken trussing now (which I’ve only ever done on rare occasions with a turkey). Thanks!
Trussing is an art form with a smaller bird as the wings don’t want to cooperate very well. Good luck!
I had no clue that poussin and Cornish hen is the same! Love to learn new stuff:)
I have to admit that I have never even heard of mute swans, but I tasted everything esle you mentioned under the category of “poultry”:)
I’ll try trussing next time I am facing the chicken (I am comfortable with tying up a roast, but haven’t yet tried it with chicken).
And I agree with you, buying and cutting a whole chicken is the way to go!
I had never heard of a mute swan either. It is a “species” of swan, and thus a member of the duck and goose family. Swan meat was a gourmet dish often served at a Royal medieval banquet.
I found a source for swan meat online. It is on-sale for a mere $999.99 reg. $1,499.99!
I just took this class today! Hoe fun to see it someone else’s point of view. Great details.
Valentina Kenney (@cookingweekends)
What a great post — and oh my, how delicious and comforting!