Monday, May 16, 2011

Slaughter Time

We slaughtered our first round of 2011 broilers today and boy are they big! Most of them are 5 lb beasts with lots of breast meat -- a great size for roasting, smoking, or however else you like to cook a whole bird. Here's some other suggestions and info for preparing pasture-raised chicken:

1) Brine -- anywhere from a few hours to overnight in a salt water bath can improve the texture and flavor of a broiler -- there are many variations on the theme but 1/2 cup of kosher salt in a 5-quart container is all you really need -- rinse the bird prior to brining and when you are finished, drain and pat dry and carry on with your recipe.

2) Air-dry -- if you allow your bird to rest in the fridge uncovered overnight, the skin will start to dry -- this is a key piece to getting that skin extra-crispy when you roast it.

3) Braising -- pasture-raised birds cook up best when they are cooked slowly with moist heat. Braising involves browning the meat first on the stove top and then transferring the meat to the oven -- a covered dish like a dutch oven is ideal -- where the meat continues to cook in a liquid (broth, wine, etc).

4) Cuticle -- this is the yellow "skin" between the feathers and the actual skin of the bird. when we process on farm not all of this cuticle will come off. Although it will not harm you nor taste bad, i like to take it as much as I can off before I cook a bird -- a little rubbing normally loosens it up enough to peel it.