If you know me, you know that I have a complicated relationship with meat. I have been an on-again-off-again vegetarian, vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and full-on-omnivore. My most recent stint with vegetarianism was last year, and lasted a good six months or so. It started because I felt that was what my body needed at the time. Why did I decide to start eating meat again? I found myself craving it…a lot. I was training for my first marathon at the time. I found myself looking dreamily at my husband Matt’s plate every time he ordered a burger.
Even before I started cooking class, I knew there would be several days of meat cookery involved in the class. Although, I felt a little conflicted about it, I decided to embrace it. I feel pretty strongly (for myself anyway) that if you do choose to eat meat, you have to be real with the fact that what is on your plate was an animal. It’s easy to divorce yourself from that fact in our society where you often order parts of animals shaped into nuggets and pretty little fillets. It’s easy to forget where meat actually comes from! So, I told myself if I choose to eat meat, I will prepare it from start to finish. If I decide one day in the near or far future that I am not okay doing that, I will stop eating meat again. For now, I am okay with it.
So driving to class this past week, I was feeling okay about the fact that I was no-doubt headed into a night of working with all types of poultry. I turned on to the street which leads to the L’Academie de Cuisine parking lot, only to hit the brakes for a pair of Canadian Geese crossing the road in front of me. I stopped as they slowly waddled their way across the road. As the last one crossed in front of my car, it actually turned it’s head and gave me a long steady stare down! Just stopping and looking at me. I kid you not!
The sensible part of me knows this goose had no knowledge of what I was about to do to his brethren in class, but I tell you people…it was a little freaky.
Nonetheless, I shook it off, straightened my chef’s jacket, grabbed my knives and headed into class.
This was another super long class with lecture lasting from 6:30 until 9:00pm before we even got into the kitchen. All in all I was there for four hours.
-How to break down a whole chicken
By the way- when you break down a chicken, you will be left with the chicken neck, back, and wing tips which you probably don’t intend on eating. Don’t throw these away! Respect the chicken and use all of it! You can freeze those parts of the chicken until you have a few more and then make chicken stock, or if you already have stock you can make a wonderful sauce. Cut up the chicken parts and saute them with a little oil and salt and pepper until very brown. Add mirepoix to the chicken in the pan, and then some wine. When the wine has cooked down until almost dry (au sec) add a good amount of your chicken stock. Let the stock cook down until it thickens a bit, and taste and adjust seasoning. Voila! Now you have a wonderfully flavorful sauce to serve with your chicken.
-How to break down a whole duck
If you know how to do the chicken, you can pretty much do the duck. Chef Patterson says, “Same designer, just slightly different architecture.” Love his quotes.
-We watched the process of making Duck Confit. Complicated. I am going for it. More on that later.
-We watched the Chef roast two whole chickens. The man can truss a chicken like you would not believe. This part went pretty fast, so I intend to watch this video of Brian Polcyn from Michael Ruhlman’s blog, to help me practice:
The Chef’s method for roasting a chicken involved stuffing the chicken with mirepoix, salt, and pepper. This is not to eat, but rather to flavor the bird. Stuffing birds with stuffing intended for eating is not recommended, and here is why: while you are busy waiting for your stuffing to cook to a safe temperature, your bird is getting dry, dry, dry! If you want stuffing cook it in a seperate pan with your homemade chicken stock. This will give your stuffing all of the chicken flavor you want, without sacrificing the flavor, texture, and moisture of your roast bird.
Chef also trussed the chicken, seasoned the outside liberally with salt and pepper, and seared the chicken everywhere EXCEPT THE BREASTS in a hot roasting pan on the stovetop before putting the chicken in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking. Why not the breasts? They will get more heat from the top of the oven while roasting, and they also take less time to cook than the legs. This helps everything cook at a more even temperature in the oven. Check that your chicken is done by using an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the legs. 165 degrees is safe according to the USDA.
Although we did not discuss it in class this time, we have previously discussed the necessity of resting cooked meat before slicing. Tent your roast chicken with aluminum foil to keep warm and let it rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.
-We poached chicken legs in chicken stock, and then made the cooking liquid into a veloute sauce by using a cold roux. Veloute is one of the five “Mother Sauces” in French cooking. Here is a good resource on the mother sauces.
*Hint: When making sauces with a roux, you always add hot to cold and cold to hot. For example, when making a bechamel sauce you start by making a hot roux, so you add cold milk. When making our veloute, our stock was already hot, so we added pre-cooked cold roux. Make sense?
– We made pan-seared duck breast with L’Orange sauce.
For the pan-seared duck breast, we seasoned the breast liberally with salt and pepper and started it skin side down in a cold saute pan. The duck is cooked over a low to medium heat so that the meat under the thick layer of duck skin and fat gets a chance to cook. Many chefs like to sear the skin side in a hot pan and then the other side in a hot pan, but Chef Patterson doesn’t like this because although you are left with a nice pink center (the goal for duck) the meat and skin is not properly cooked around the outside. The trick here is not messing with the duck breast while it is cooking skin side down. It will stick to the pan at first, and you will be concerned, but when the skin is ready, it will release itself from the pan and only then can you flip it. This took a LONG time. I kept wanting to fidget with it, but my cooking partner kept telling me to walk away. Good advice. Once you have flipped the breast, it does not take long to cook on the other side. You want to cook it only long enough that the outside is done, leaving a fairly pink center. This part just takes practice. I will admit that my duck breast in class was sadly a little overcooked. It just takes practice to know how cooked the meat is inside, just by touching it.
The L’Orange sauce is made by cooking sugar until dark brown and then arresting the cooking by adding an equal amount (by weight) of sherry vinegar. Once that has settled down, you can add in stock (in class we used veal stock) and bring to a simmer. Once it has thickened slightly add a supremed orange and it’s juices. The sauce is reduced slightly and served with the duck breast. L’Orange sauce is a gastrique sauce and it really, really good.
-Finally, we learned how to grill marinated quail to serve over a salad. The quail cooked very very quickly. This seemed like it would be a great summer meal. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to try it in class. So much poultry…so little time.
So that’s the poultry update for now. This weekend I am frying chicken, and hopefully starting my duck confit.