Category Archives: poultry pursuit

panko persuasion…

You know you’ve found a good man when you mention needing to cut up that whole chicken for dinner and you come home to a beautiful platter of carved pieces, ready to use. I think my husband is also still trying to ween me back onto chicken, fearing that if I must disjoint it myself, I might scrap the whole idea of eating it altogether. He is a very wise man.

The next recipe on my list was Panko Baked Chicken. Possibly panko could persuade me to eat meat? I figured a little less deep-frying while maintaining a crisp, flavorful breading would make for a more calorie friendly meal anyhow.

The panko process was very simple and gave me plenty of time to whip up a couple other side dishes to complete my autumn feast. I baked an acorn squash, boiled some orzo, steamed some cauliflower, and tossed some of our fresh cherry tomatoes with herbs. (Lots of sides are needed when there is a pseudo-vegetarian *me* at the table. The unpredictable creature could turn her nose up to the chicken at any time!)

The panko itself was excellent (hello, who can resist crunchy seasoned crumbs?). And the chicken? I found it to be just ok. I’m having omnivore issues still. The baby seal dream was a little much to digest. This is the 3rd bird that I have made and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for me. It took me awhile, but I ate a whole panko crusted breast. I’m not trying to convert back to a full-time meat eater, but it would be nice to be more open minded. What an easier dinner guest I could be! I’m working on it.

I haven’t worked my way up to eating leftovers yet, which is posing quite the dilemma for my poor husband. He’s basically being asked to eat a whole chicken each week, less a breast. We still have around 9 more chickens in the queue! Time to start sharing the poultry wealth. We’ll make these spreads for guests now that I am more confident in my preparation abilities. Until then, does anyone want to come over for leftovers?!

Recipe: Panko Baked Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into 8-10 serving pieces (or you could substitute just breasts or tenders)
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 cups buttermilk (you could substitute a stick of melted butter if you prefer)
Cayenne, garlic pepper, aleppo pepper, salt, and/or any herbs desired

Preheat oven to 400. In one bowl, mix the buttermilk or melted butter with a few dashes of cayenne (optional: marinate the chicken for 2-4 hours in the buttermilk). In a second bowl, mix the panko crumbs, seasonings, and herbs. Dip chicken into marinade and then into panko, coating evenly on both sides. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and let crust form for 5 minutes. Bake chicken until well browned and cooked through, about 40-50 minutes (the smaller pieces may need to be taken out earlier).

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and cleaned
1 cup dry orzo, rice, or couscous (2+ cups cooked)
15 oz vegetable or chicken broth
~1 cup water
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ stick butter or margarine
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400°F. Place 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar in each squash half. Bake in a shallow dish or cookie sheet until very tender, about 40 minutes. (Or, microwave squash until tender in a dish with 1 inch of water, 6 to 8 minutes, turning halves frequently). Let cool for 5 minutes.

In the mean time, start boiling the broth with any additional water, following the directions on the package for whichever filling you choose. Cook down until water is mostly absorbed and filling is tender. Scoop most of the squash flesh out of shells, leaving them intact, and mix well into the filling. Stir in cranberries, nuts, remaining butter, and spices. Scoop mixture back into squash shells and serve.

Recipe: Mashed Cauliflower

1 head Cauliflower
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: parmesan cheese, rosemary, or garlic for additional flavor

Steam or bowl cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and put into a food processor or mixing bowl. Add half the butter, milk, and desired seasonings and mix until smooth. Continue to add liquids until you’ve reached the desired consistency (like mashed potatoes). You may need more or less of the butter and milk depending on the size of the cauliflower.


finger lickin’ good y’all…

Fresh chicken #2. Oh, what to do? I’m thinking that maybe if it is fried, I might be able to ease my way into eating just a little bit more than 4 bites. Since I don’t have a large deep fat fryer, the raw carcass must be disassembled prior to cooking. My husband Mark, being the good man he is, offered to assist in “dejointing” the bird this first time. I think he was afraid that if I had to cut through the bones and joints myself, I might give up on this chicken adventure.

Together we viewed several you tube videos showing us how to cut up a chicken. It wasn’t as hard as we thought, but it also wasn’t quite as simple. Crack the breastbone and cut through it? Yikes! We ended up deboning the breast, mostly so that I’d have a better chance at eating it. It is, after all, the second piece of chicken I’ve had in 15 years.

Mark stashed the back bone, some rib meat, and the extra fat to make another batch of soup this week. I plopped the now pieced chicken into a buttermilk marinade and proceeded to scour the kitchen. I still have some chicken phobia when it comes to possible contamination. I once witnessed a friend writhe on the bathroom floor (and later the hospital) from salmonella. It’s not pretty.

In the meantime, I started on my coleslaw. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for but had read something this past week about adding apples for variety. I consulted Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for some ideas. I love that he gives you a base to work from and then suggests things to add for variation. I borrowed his idea to add jalapenos for some kick and made up my own slaw concoction (best guess recipe below).

Using some of the extra buttermilk on hand, I whipped up my first batch of homemade biscuits. Now that I know how easy they are to make, I’ll never stoop to prepackaged biscuits again. I’m looking forward to playing with the formula to make cheesy or herb filled delights in the near future. Chicken and biscuits, hello!

On to the dredging, frying, baking portion of the chicken experiment. I used my dutch oven to fry the bird pieces, lessening the grease splatter on my stove top. At some point, a splash popped all the way out and hit me in the face though. Hot, hot grease! Definitely not the healthiest meal I’ve made in a while, but there is something irresistible about fried food. I rotated all of the chicken through the frying process, resting each piece on a rack when golden brown, and then baked it all in the oven for 5 more minutes.

By the time it came to serve the meal, I was very excited to try it. Again, I wanted to really like it. I put a lot of effort into making this dinner. Please let me be able to eat it and actually genuinely like it! And the verdict? YUM! It was so delicious. The spices were good. It was tender and juicy. I ate an entire chicken breast! As my beloved Beastie Boys would say, “It’s finger lickin’, finger lickin’ good y’all”.

Recipe: Crispy Fried Chicken

~1 quart (3 cups) buttermilk
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 chicken (about 3½ pounds), cut into eight pieces
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
garlic salt, paprika, other optional herbs/seasoning of choice
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and discard the marinade. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, pepper and other optional seasoning. Place 1 cup of the seasoned flour in a paper bag. Add one piece of chicken and shake until well coated. You can also mix flour in a bowl and just dip the pieces if preferred. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken, one piece at a time, adding more seasoned flour to the paper bag as necessary. Let the floured chicken stand for 10 minutes to allow a crust to form.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325º and place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. In a deep cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 inch of oil to 365°. Add the chicken and fry, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet and bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 170º, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Sweet & Spicy Apple Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
2 apples, shredded
1/2 C golden raisins
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
1 TBS dijon mustard
2-3 TBS apple cider vinegar (can substitute rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
2-3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS brown sugar

Shred cabbage and apples, preferably in a food processor. Whisk mustard, vinegar, oil, and sugar. Taste and add more sugar or vinegar until it is just the right blend of tangy and sweet. Pour 1/2 of mixture onto cabbage and apples, mixing well. Continue to add until just saturated (you don’t want it to be too saucy). Stir in raisins and jalapenos. Chill for 20 minutes and let mingle.

chicken soup for the soul…

Have you ever seen a grown man swim around in a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup? I can now say that I have. Last night I witnessed a certain Cirque de Soleil type maneuver involving my husband and a huge bowl of fresh soup. Had I known such a simple dish could delight him in that way, I would have attempted to make it long ago.

I love to make soup. Its one of my favorite things to create. I rarely follow a recipe and usually just use the basic ingredients as a guide. Roasted peppers, tomatoes and garlic garnished with a little basil effortlessly come together into a flavorful soup. Sauteed mushrooms and onions simmered with lentils make a more substantial tasty stew. My husband Mark always eats my soupy concoctions but notes that they lack soul, by which he means meat. Every once in awhile, I’ll throw him a bone (pun completely intended) and put pork into his very own pot of green chili, or add chicken broth to his portion of a vegetable soup.

Yesterday he took the leftover roasted chicken with vegetables and created a hearty homemade chicken soup. He anxiously awaited my arrival home for a shared bowl. He watched me, giddily, as I took my first bite. Again, I expected it to taste more greasy or chicken-y or “bad” having avoided chicken and its broth for so many years. But it was good. It was really good! I still mostly navigated around the carved pieces of meat, but I did eat the broth soaked noodles and vegetables. My husband makes a damn good chicken noodle soup from scratch!

Later in the evening, he went in for round 2. Filling a large bowl to the rim, I caught him leaning over the counter, face first, slurping broth and noodles straight from the dish. He danced around the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear and rubbing his tummy. (This is not an exaggerated description for effect. I almost took video for proof.) Then he dove in with a spoon AND a fork, devouring the soup.

It was actually quite amusing how much he truly enjoyed his creation. For as simple as it was, I agree that it was quite delicious. And that says a lot coming from a mostly vegetarian!

Recipe: Mark’s Basic Chicken Noodle Soup***This is made with leftovers from a roasted chicken w/vegetables. Measurements and times are a best guess and can be adjusted however you prefer.***
Chicken neck/carcass/leftover bones
Leftover cooked Carrots , Celery, Potatoes, Onions
Soup fillers:
Cooked chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
~ 3 Raw Carrots & Potatoes
1 Package Egg Noodles
Salt & Pepper to taste

To make stock, cover the leftover bones and roasted vegetables with water, about 2 inches above solids. Cook down and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Strain out solids and put broth back in the pot. Add desired fresh vegetables to broth until vegetables are tender, 20-30 minutes. Add leftover cooked meat and noodles. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until noodles are al dente. Season with salt & pepper. Pile in a bowl and slurp immediately!

one bite at a time…

I did it! I roasted a chicken all by my lonesome (ok, with the help of my husband Mark who made sure it wasn’t undercooked or overdone) AND I tasted it. It was the first piece of chicken to pass through these lips in nearly 15 years.

Now before anyone gets too excited, I want to state that this chicken is NOT meant to be a “gateway” meat. No, bacon is not next. This is special chicken that I have researched and found to be acceptable for consumption. Its fresh, free range, local, happy chicken whose purchase enables a farmer to make a living.

I had four bites of roasted chicken, and guess what? I didn’t die. It was actually quite surreal, as ridiculous as that probably sounds to all of you meat eaters out there. It wasn’t too greasy or strong-tasting as I feared. I want to be really excited and say that I loved it, but the truth is I just thought it was ok, edible if you will. And believe me, Mark practically licked his plate so I know it wasn’t my cooking methods. I think it will just take time, or maybe I won’t ever reacquire the taste for chicken. I’m just pleased that I didn’t make myself sick about it. I chewed it slowly, intentionally, one bite at a time.

It’s strange how it feels different in my belly than other food does. Its heavier. Or maybe its all in my head? I honestly felt full after my four bites. Hmm, new diet strategy?

My main desire in overcoming my fear of eating chicken stems from my cooking passion. I would like to be able to make a poultry recipe and taste it without the automatic gag reflex. I would like for the presence of chicken broth to not ruin my ability to sample a dish.

I don’t plan to run out to a restaurant and order Chicken Cordon Blue. But if my husband is sampling a delicious curry and it happens to have chicken in it, I’d like to be able to try it without reservation. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I’d like the option of purchasing a free range turkey to prepare and consume. I’ve made many turkeys in my life and always had to take someone’s word that it was edible as I couldn’t bring myself to even have a small bite. Mind over matter, silly girl.

My intention to reintroduce poultry to my diet occasionally is also to help clarify “good” and “bad” foods in my mind. I have vilified all meat as bad. While I somehow justified eating fish years ago, I never took the next step to local, farm raised meats. I realize that some of the “grocery store” fish I purchase is just as processed and farmed as the packaged beef down the aisle. I need to redefine my food choices and do the best that I can to eat a sustainable, healthy, well-rounded diet.

At least I know that I am being more reasonable now and consciously making decisions about what is acceptable to put in my body. I’m attempting to distinguish clean meat from hormone-laden factory farmed garbage. I’m trying to remove the negative label I blanketed on all meat. I’m not sure that I want to eat it on a regular basis but my attitude towards it is changing.

There are several chicken dishes that I would like to be able to prepare and hopefully enjoy. I hope to share these wonderful recipes and experiences with you, chicken by chicken, as they are delivered to my home from Paulie’s Pasture. In the meantime, here is the simple roasted chicken recipe I created last night from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Hey look Mom, I’m eating chicken! One bite at a time…

Recipe: Simple Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs fresh tarragon, rosemary, or thyme (optional)
5 or 6 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 450F. Five minutes after turning on the oven, put a cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet on a rack set low in the oven. Rub the chicken with the olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and put the herb sprigs on it if you’re using them.

2. When both oven and pan are hot, 10 or 15 minutes later, carefully put the chicken, breast side up, in the hot skillet; if you’re using garlic, scatter it around the bird. Roast, undisturbed, for 40 to 50 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh registers 155-165F.

3. Tip the pan to let the juices from the bird’s cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook for another 5 minutes). Transfer the bird to a platter and let it rest; if you like, pour the pan juices into a clear measuring cup, then pour or spoon off some of the fat. Quarter the bird, garnish with herbs, and serve with the pan juices.