Chickens rule the roost and they don’t even know it
“The chicken has, quietly but inexorably, become essential.” Donna J. Haraway
The egg comes before the chicken. At least that is how it is in my world. Edition before last, I wrote about the incredible edible egg and now we are going to focus on the humble chicken. Now this uncelebrated bird has some surprising facts to it. For instance did you know that if you added up all the world’s cats, dogs, pigs, cows and toss in all the rats for fun, there would still be more chickens on this earth?
Yes, it is true, this simple creature has captured the world and we don’t even know it. If it had a brain bigger than a walnut, it could rule. Chickens are 50 billion strong and on every continent in the world except Antarctica, and they still make it there in frozen entrees. (The reason that they do not have them there is because they carry a virus that emperor penguins chicks can catch.) So conceivably they have us surrounded, but we can rest easy as the chicken isn’t intending on ruling the world, just looking for a juicy bug to eat.
It seems the chicken has become extremely important to our world and no one has even noticed. It all started in the thick humid jungles of Asia where the ancestor to the modern chicken, the red jungle fowl, hatched into the world. There is evidence that in Southern China chickens lived with humans over 8,000 years ago, making the chicken the first domesticated animal.
From there this ubiquitous bird started its successful march across the world spreading to the Indus Valley, (Pakistan) then to Eastern Europe, Egypt, and when the Romans got a hold of them, they went everywhere! The ancient Polynesians even had them and that has the Archeologists tail feathers in a twist as they can’t figure out how that happened.
Why? Because humans love to eat them and their eggs. Chickens are the worlds favored source of protein, be it egg or meat. The meat of the chicken is an intriguing canvas for many dishes that crosses cultures and continents with ease. All countries have their favorite part of the bird and dishes that are cultural stables. The eggs are a nice neat package that can stay fresh for weeks unrefrigerated and they are in every country’s foods as well.
Here is America we love our boneless, skinless chicken breast that are as tasteless and dry as cardboard. I recommend you start cooking with the whole chicken for two very good reasons. First off, the skin and bones add nutrition, moistness and flavor to the bird. Second of all, buying parts of a bird are pretty much guaranteeing that you are buying a chicken that was raised inhumanely in large chicken factories that are hidden from the world in shame.
I buy whole chickens from Lance’s farm vittles (503-322-2226 or at our local farmer’s market) that are grown right here in our own valley and are happy chickens during their short stay on earth. Lance also buys the breed “Red Roaster” which is a slower growing meat chicken that isn’t a monstrosity that the normal Cornish Cross meat chicken is. It also has more flavor. (More flavor is good!)
I feel that everyone should learn to roast a perfect bird. In this following recipe based on a recipe from the great chef Thomas Keller, anyone can. I didn’t believe it could be so easy and good till I tried it and I’m a devotee! Stretch your wings and learn how to trust a chicken for this recipe. It’s not hard and there is a very simple You Tube video that will show you how if you search for “How to truss a chicken.” Use kitchen twine available at almost any store. Make this as a lovely spring Sunday dinner and your status will be elevated to super chicken.
Thomas Keller’s famous simple roast chicken
One farm raised fat chicken, 3-4 pounds
Flaked salt and cracked pepper
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or rosemary (Or both if you’re feeling crazy!)
1-2 tablespoons of butter
Serve with Dijon mustard if you like
First off, preheat your oven to 450° degrees and lightly grease your baking pan or skillet. (Thomas likes to use a stainless steel sauté pan but I like to use a cast iron skillet) Take your chicken out and rinse it thoroughly and then pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Thomas stresses that you want the driest heat possible when roasting it to make it turn out moist and delicious.
Next, toss a little salt and pepper in the cavity. Now the fun part, truss the bird. I am not going to explain it here as it might be impossible and with technology available today, just search how to do it on the web. The first video that comes up is an excellent one. Make sure and truss it tight as this is part of the technique to keep the bird moist.
Now put the all trussed up chicken in your prepare pan and rain salt and pepper down on it. Thomas recommends about a tablespoon of each. Some will stick some won’t, don’t stress it. Tuck in the oven for 50-70 mins till done and a thermometer stuck in between the thigh and breast reads 160. I can tell by pricking the thickest part of the thigh with a fork and the juices run clear. Don’t mess with the chicken while it is baking as much as you want to.
When you take it out, add the herbs to the pan juices and then baste the chicken thoroughly. Let it sit 15 minutes then cut the twine, discard and eat the delicious chicken with mustard served on the side. Easy peasy, one two threesy.