Ever since I saw Julie and Julia I wanted to try deboning a chicken. Today, four years later, I got around to actually doing it. Maybe it was the lack of sleep over the past few days (we got back from Guatemala at 4:00 Monday morning), maybe it was the rain that prohibited all outside activity, maybe it was that all the meat in Guatemala has turned me into some sort of meat connoisseur (not likely). Well, whatever the reason, I finally deboned a chicken and the world is now a better place for it.
Like Julie in the movie, I was instructed by video how to correctly remove the carcass, leg, and wing bones from poultry. Unlike Julie, my instructor was not Julia Child, but Jaques Pepin via youtube, a man who can purportedly debone a chicken in a minute flat and also has a pretty great accent. Let’s just say it took me a little longer than a minute, in fact, more like sixty minutes. And my chicken was certainly nowhere close to the beauty that Pepin’s was. At the beginning he warned against using one’s knife too much and I sort of got carried away, plus, we definitely do not sharpen our knives enough here so there was a lot of hacking. Oh, and it turned out that we apparently had nothing remotely close to kitchen twine, so I used dental floss to truss my chicken. I’ve gotta say, if you’re in a pinch, it actually works quite well!
After those gory sixty minutes during which I wrapped my laptop in saran wrap to keep from poisoning everyone with salmonella, I washed my hands some five or six times and doused the counter with Clorox bleach. Though I had gotten the most natural option for chicken at the store, reading Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle right now made me skeptical of anything short of what I kill myself or purchase from Joe the farmer down the road.
Really though, I wish we had a farm close by, not just for chicken but for fruits and vegetables. Being in a new house this year means not having our garden plot out back like we’ve had in the past. Sure, we’ve got some nice fresh herbs, but no tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, ect. like in the past. I guess this just means I’ll be visiting my grandparents’ farm and the market downtown a little more often to get my share of summer’s bounty.
But despite not having chicken from just down the road, this was a pretty amazing dish. I’m not a meat person, but I am apparently a chicken galantine person. It hardly qualifies to be placed in a category that houses bloody slabs of steak. It was improved by the stuffing that I used, inspired by the stuffing and rice dishes in the Jerusalem cookbook, whose cauliflower, pomegranate, and hazelnut salad I raved about some six months or so ago.
I suppose that’s all. Get going on this! It left me feeling very satisfied and as if I’d expanded my horizons. I mean, who these days does really elaborate meat preparation at home? Certainly not me normally. Also, try out different stuffings. I really liked the one I came up with below but there are tons of other options, so get creative!
Here’s the video from Pepin, and my recipe for stuffing:
Basmati Rice Stuffing with Tomatoes, Raisins and Herbs
Enough for one 4.5 pound, deboned chicken
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes to taste
2 cups cooked basmati rice (I used rice that had sat in the fridge overnight so that it was nice and dry and wouldn’t stick together)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup raisins, plumped in warm water
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat until just starting to brown, then add spices, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook until aromatic. Stir in rice and heat through. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper as needed. Mix in the egg. It really just acts as a binder and doesn’t significantly alter the flavor. Follow the video’s instructions for stuffing the chicken after deboning.
I baked my 4.5 pound chicken with just salt, pepper and lots of olive oil, both under the chicken and rubbed into the top and sides. It took about an hour at 350 degrees, but you should just test the temperature of the chicken to see when yours is done. Once you take it out of the oven, allow it to sit for a while to cool off a bit so that it will be easier to cut cleanly.