About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Deboning a Whole Chicken a' la Pepin

Deboned whole chicken
Some people choose to go to the moon or climb Mount Everest; I choose to debone a whole chicken!
It was like that scene in the movie Julie and Julia, when Julie attempts to debone a whole duck while watching a Julia Child video.  It's her grand finale' while working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I get it, it's a big technical challenge and I want to own it.

I recently rediscovered Jacques Pepin and became fascinated with a few videos of him deboning a whole chicken which he says can be done in about 45 seconds.  After watching the video dozens of times I took my very sharp boning knife in hand and gave it a try.  My first attempt took about 20 minutes, not to mention, I wasn't sure what he meant by the "hip".  Do chickens have hips?  I sliced and realized I'd gotten it wrong but not too much damage was done.

Stuffed, rolled & tied
After a few preliminary slices Monsieur Pepin uses his hands and strips the flesh off most of the carcass except for the legs which take scraping and some detail.  Now this is a man with strong, large hands and the manual dexterity of a pianist.  He's an absolute genius whose knife skills and technique are unmatched.  I, on the other hand, have small hands, average knife skills and the manual dexterity of a finger painter, but I managed and with practice I think I can get it down but not in 45 seconds.  We are in for a lot of deboned whole chicken in the future as I master this.

I followed his example and stuffed it with spinach, garlic and cheese; even got the basic idea of tying it with slip knots, then browning and roasting in the oven.  I've always thought chicken is better skin on, bone in.  While this did keep the skin in tact, the point was to remove all the bones so it could be rolled and stuffed.  I expected a drier rolled bird but it was a remarkably moist, flavorful and tender chicken.  My husband gave it a thumbs up.

This isn't a must but if you'd like to learn a new culinary skill, this is a good one and it makes one fine chicken dish that has that wow factor.  I'm not about to give any instruction here but recommend watching a good video and then sacrifice a few whole chickens as practice.  At worst, you've got plenty of stock material.

If you choose to give deboning a try, remember these tips:

         - use a very sharp, boning knife. A real boning knife is not a chef or pairing knife.  It's use is specific to butchering.  See mine in the top picture.
         - practice safe handling of raw chicken and any surface or equipment it touches (cutting board,    knife, etc.). I washed my hands every time I had to stop, grab something or rewind that video and I used lots of paper toweling.  Wash cutting board and knife in warm soapy water, spray with a bleach based cleaner and rinse well.

         - save the carcass and other bones in a zip lock bag to freeze for stock.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Tables Have Turned

A big baking project

Thirty-two years ago my youngest child was born.  We lived in a nice little neighborhood full of young families that had organized a baby sitting co-op.  One of the benefits of membership was   dinner for a newborn's family.  So late one afternoon I opened the door to greet a pretty young woman with a toddler on one hip and holding a small covered sauce pan with her other free hand.  She spoke only broken English but I got the idea she had volunteered to fix dinner for us and it was in the small sauce pan which she indicated didn't have to be returned.  The sauce pan was small, old and dinged up with a loose handle.  I thanked her and retreated to the kitchen to unveil what meal for a family could be in such a small sauce pan.  Spaghetti-O's and that was all!  The pot and it's contents went straight in the trash.  I'm not sure what country she hailed from, but clearly, something had been lost in the translation.  Even if she wasn't a cook, her heart was in the right place.

My method for a charitable event has been a quart of soup, a baguette and cookies. Simple elements to have on hand when somebody's life takes a turn for the worse and you want to help out.  Recently,  I've been on the receiving end.  In the last few months, I've lost a parent, a precious pet and been diagnosed with cancer bringing my charmed life into question.  It's taken quite a few years for death and disease to catch up with me and shake up my world.  I've carefully arranged my life to proceed according to schedule without too much interference and pronounced others misfortune as, "just life." Well, the tables have turned.  

My husband, who is unaccustomed to carry-out and so forth, quietly asked me what we would do for food during my protracted period of illness.  It was as if a famine or nuclear attack was imminent.  I responded with a well stocked freezer and I added, "There might be something from others."

I've called it a mild case of cancer but it's made me feel like the most popular girl in town.  My recuperation from surgery has been enhanced with fresh flowers and delicious meals brought to the door daily.  You get spoiled pretty quick.  There's some powerful healing in homegrown,
garden picked lettuce and serious homemade chicken soup.  What is it about mashed potatoes that makes everything better.  I'm suppose to take my pills with something in my stomach.  Right before bed a little slice of caramel cake disguises the nasty tasting pill very nicely.

 If there's a bright side to loss and illness, it's been the warmth and caring of family, friends and even strangers.  What is it that brings out the best in us when times are bad that we should be using in our everyday living?  As unpleasant as it's been,  I would not trade the expressions of kindness and love for anything.

Tonight, I'm cooking dinner for the first time in a month.  I had wondered when or if I'd ever get back to "normal", whatever that is.  Meatloaf is a good start.