Sometime around Thanksgiving, my wife and her friend Jean stood in line at a local bookstore to get a signed copy of the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Such classic female behavior, collecting cookbooks. (he says with a smirk) Or rather, it would be classic behavior if the cookbook wasn’t for me. Yeah, this cookbook was to be my Christmas gift. She never did get to meet the author – the line was impressively long – but she did end up with a signed copy of the book and I’ve been cooking with it ever since I unwrapped it.
One of the first recipes I tried was Flat Roasted Chicken with Tiny Potatoes. This was more than a little daunting for me as it involved roasting a whole chicken, something I’ve always feared (something else I’ve always feared: death. Luckily I had to face the chicken thing first). But it’s something I’ve been wanting to do as the only happy chicken at the small market is a whole Amish chicken. The rest of the chicken seems to be on the Barry Bonds diet, although that doesn’t stop me from buying it when it costs less than a dollar a pound. But anyway, yeah, I’ve been looking forward to trying a naturally-raised chicken.
How did I know it was an Amish chicken? No buttons. Also, the chicken didn’t drive a car.
The first step in cooking the chicken was to use kitchen shears to cut out the chicken’s backbone. I think this was the “flat” part of the “Flat Roasting”. It also was a moderately horrifying concept. The nice thing about buying chicken from a store is that it’s so nicely divorced from the reality of a murdered chicken. There’s no crunching through bones and tissue, no severing a ribcage. On the other hand, you can’t make a package of supermarket chicken parts dance like Michigan J Frog. But I’m a rule follower and a recipe is nothing more than a set of rules, so I grabbed a pair of scissors from our office (note to self: buy kitchen sheers) and tore through the chicken. Then I nicely seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and the result was a very roastable looking chicken.
And then, after roasting, it looked even better
It ended up being juicy and delicious, with a crisp and very tasty skin. I need to learn how to carve a chicken, though, if I want to pursue this whole “chicken roasting” thing in the future. I ended up just ripping at the legs to get them off and, with the second leg, not even succeeding at that (I did eventually manage to saw it off, though).
After everyone had had their fill, the mutilated carcass was stored for later use. And it was a few days later that I picked the bones to turn the remaining meat into baby food. Making baby food is pretty easy. You just take whatever food you want your baby to eat, throw it in a food processor, and turn it into mush. Or lumpy mush, depending on how old your baby is. After scouring the tasty carcass for meat, this is what I ended up with:
If you start the processor up at this point, you’ll see the chicken start to turn into chicken crumbs. Which, if you dredged a chicken breast in flour and egg and coated it in these chicken crumbs, you’d have the least vegetarian dish ever. However, if you keep grinding and slowly add water, the chicken will smooth and turn into something that resembles baby food. You’ll know you’ve added enough water when the color and consistency of the chicken makes you want to vomit. Here’s what I settled on:
Guh. God that’s gross. Actually, it sort of looks like tuna salad.
I think I just threw up a little.
But, mix it with the peas and carrots from the family dinner (frozen, from a bag) and it starts to look much better.
Thanks to Leah for thinking to take this picture and show everyone that we’re not just feeding out baby tuna salad from hell. And so there you have it, the lifecycle of a chicken. From the market to the dinner table, then into the food processor and back to the dinner table.
And, I suppose at one time it was an egg and then some sort of living animal, but it’s easier if you think of it as just starting out in the supermarket.