I had my hand inside the raw chicken, fingers scrabbling gingerly toward the furcula (or, as it’s more commonly known, the wishbone).
“Gently maneuver your knife to slice around the sides, use your fingers to feel for the bone, and then pull it out,” the instructor said, as she aptly demonstrated.
This Christmas, I gave my husband a three-part Home Butchery class at the Sustainable Food Center. Why? We like to learn things together; he enjoys cooking; I love to eat good food, especially when prepared by someone else; and knives + meat sounded appropriately manly, especially when the instructor was one of the founding butchers of notable restaurant/supper club/butcher shop Dai Due. It also seemed somewhat more romantic and date night-ish than the Knife Skills class I’d originally considered.
The first lesson focused on chicken. We learned the basics of cutting up a whole, raw bird as well as tips for more advanced endeavors, such as spatchcocking.
The best thing (other than learning a valuable life skill)? We took home fresh birds from a local farm. Hubby and I had two whole chickens to cook, quite a bounty. While hubby grilled up our nicely carved meaty parts on our Big Green Egg, I set aside the spine and other leftover bits for another day.
The grilled chicken was tender, moist, and tasty. So amazingly tasty, in fact, that I may just have converted to buying only farm-fresh whole chickens. Since they cost more than grocery store birds, I’d eat chicken less often in exchange for better tasting fowl.
Yes, they were that good.
Making Homemade Chicken Broth
The Sustainable Food Center’s educational cooking branch is called La Cocina Alegra (The Happy Kitchen), and along with the raw chicken, they sent us home with recipes. Being frugal, I wasn’t about to waste what we hadn’t grilled, so I decided to make broth.
According to epicurious.com, broth is a lighter liquid, made from meat, bones, and “aromatics” (those herbs), that remains liquid when chilled. Stock is more gelatinous and generally unflavored, becoming jelly-like when refrigerated.
The simple instructions for making Chicken Broth, adapted from The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook by Andrea Chesman, are summarized below:
- In a large soup pot, combine all the chicken parts (wings, backs, necks, carcass, spine) with an onion (quartered), four cloves of garlic, four stalks of celery, and a large handful of garden herbs. I used rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, and marjoram, tied with twine in a large bundle.
- Add five quarts of water.
- Cover; bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for two hours.
- Strain the liquid, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Pull out the bones and remove any meat (I saved all for later use). Trash the leftover bones.
- Bring the broth to room temperature before refrigerating. Skim off any fat that has congealed on the surface before using or freezing.
How to store? I measured, and two cups of broth filled a standard ice cube tray (8 cubes = 1 cup of broth). There was enough to freeze six cups and reserve an additional four for later.
Cooking Up Gluten-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
I love cream of mushroom soup with a passion. I grew up eating Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup in a variety of ways, sometimes straight out of the can (I feel you judging), but, alas, it is not gluten free. Canned soups, in general, are not that all healthy; they’re high in sodium and some can linings can contain bisphenol A (BPA), which has caused documented health problems in animal tests.
I had a bunch of white mushrooms in the fridge, that wonderfully aromatic and delicious chicken broth on hand, and everything else I needed — including time — to make homemade soup on a cold day.
Notes: Due to the amount of mushrooms and broth I had, I doubled the recipe. Instead of regular flour, I substituted King Arthur Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour.
Oh, Lord, the house smelled heavenly while the pot simmered. I ate the soup for dinner, adding a mixture of leftover brown and wild rice into my bowl.
The next day, I cooked up a pot of Central Market’s Lasagna Corte gluten-free corn pasta, reheated the bits of chicken I’d picked from the broth bones, and mixed it all with that fabulous cream of mushroom soup for a warm, filling lunch. Aaah.
I’d say my Christmas Butchery Class present is a gift that will keep on giving.