I’ve decided that I vastly prefer dealing with all the cutting and chopping and butchering of a chicken or turkey before it is cooked. We can’t eat a whole bird in a meal, and even if we could, having to face that pile of bones and meat after dinner is just depressing, in my books. Who wants to be wade through all that after having had a nice meal? But I can’t stand to let meat go to waste, and the cleanup has to happen somewhere along the way, so I came up with an alternative.
Basically, I do all the scrounging and scavenging before I cook the bird. I looked in the Old Green Cookbook (this is absolutely far and away the best cook book ever – if you like cooking real food with real ingredients, hustle over to Amazon and buy a used copy, it has *everything* in it!) and found out how to debone a chicken, then I just got out my big peasant knife and a cutting board and went to work.
The bones, wing tips, and all the other yukky bits go outside – because the chicken hasn’t been cooked, it’s okay for the outside animals to eat off the bones. They can’t have cooked bones, and the outside dogs and cats really can use some extra protein at this time of year, so the fact that I could toss them the remainder of the carcass without worry was actually a fairly big reason I started doing this. (Our outside dogs gladly scavenge what the hunters leave behind during deer season, so they are quite accustomed to raw meat. This is not the case with all dogs, so just because ours can handle it doesn’t mean yours will – consider yourself warned.)
The drumsticks come off intact (there are people here who will be happy to eat a roasted drumstick at some point) so those stay whole. The rest is just taken apart bit by bit, small pieces of meat that don’t come off cleanly get dropped into a bowl and the neater, larger pieces are laid out on a cookie sheet. Today, the drumsticks, one chicken breast, and one thigh went in the freezer for another day, and the remaining breast meat was sliced thinner and laid out flat on the cutting board.
All the small pieces then go through the meat grinder with a bit of bread crumbs (and today I tossed in some crumbs from the bottom of a Vegetable Thins cracker bag, for seasoning) and then the ground meat is mixed with some seasonings and liquid smoke to make a chicken meatloaf type mixture. This is an idea I got from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a fascinating book from 1860, which refers to this kind of preparation as forcemeat. It is actually a really handy way to use the small bits and leftovers of meat while vastly improving the appearance – you don’t have all these tiny chunks, you have a very presentable, shapeable mass of meat that cooks up nicely and holds whatever seasonings and additions you might wish to add. With veggies or spices as appropriate, it is a really handy addition to a lot of recipes. Skim through Mrs Beeton’s book, and you’ll get plenty of ideas!
What I do with it when I’m preparing poultry is to ball up the forcemeat and pack it into the centre of the chicken breast, which is then folded around it. If necessary, some big skewers will hold it all in place, or I could tie it with butcher’s twine and make a roll. Today, it all held together nicely by itself so I plunked it into a Corningware dish, put a bit of olive oil on the breast meat so it won’t get too dry, sprinkled everything with poultry spices, seasoning salt, and ground pepper, and it’ll go in the oven tomorrow for roasting.
See? Now when it’s time for dinner there’ll be a lovely chicken roll, easy to slice and serve, and when it’s time for clean up, the Corningware can go straight into the dishwasher, the leftovers can be sliced and put into Tupperware, and that’ll be it.
And today, the dogs and cats are having a Christmas Eve feast of fresh, farm raised chicken. Everybody’s happy!