Chicken is such a frequent addition to our weekly meal roster, loved for its versatility, nutritional qualities and ease of preparation. It’s a ubiquitous meat in many parts of the world – indeed, Australians each eat an average 47 kilograms of chicken a year. That’s a lot! However, it’s not too long ago that every chicken was a special occasion, perhaps a Sunday roast shared at a bustling family table, then the bones picked clean and used to make a stock.
I have a two-part project with this page, which I’ll be adding to frequently. My first aim is for us all to understand chicken a bit better. I want us to know our way around the physical chicken, hence this carving primer. I also want to equip you all with great recipes to make the most of it in all kinds of meals.
Part two is a hope that all this information will help us to honour the chicken and its place in culinary culture. I think it’s sad to see a special occasion meal relegated to cheap protein, eaten unthinkingly in nuggets, wraps and the like. I would prefer we eat less chicken but better chicken, beautiful free-range slow-grown birds that we can cook and eat as though every bite matters – because it does.
I hope you enjoy the Turkey content too, especially around Christmas and Thanksgiving time.
Cutting Chicken Chat
Marty Dixon from John Cesters at Prahran Market is a chicken expert. I nabbed him for a series of videos, starting with this low-down on the break-down of a whole, fresh chicken. This introduction to butchery is all about understanding the structure of a chicken – with this knowledge and a sharp (though inexpensive) boning knife, you’ll be an expert chicken chopper in no time.
‘Jerk’ is a Jamaican style of flavouring and cooking meat, using a dry or wet rub to impart flavour, then following up with cooking and smoking over a grill. Watch the video here and check out the complete recipe page.
Carving Roast Chicken
Our final video (for now!) with the fabulous Marty Dixon sees him showing us how to chop up a cooked chicken. I know that a lot of people find it tricky to portion a bird so that everyone gets their favourite bit and all the parts stay nice and neat, so I thought you’d appreciate this no-nonsense tutorial.
Talking Turkey Buffe
A turkey buffe (often called ‘buffet’ in poultry shops) is turkey on the bone with the drumsticks removed. It’s much easier to cook evenly than a whole bird. My Turkey Buffe and Herby Quinoa Stuffing recipe is an absolute crowd pleaser and makes an impressive edible centre piece for your Christmas Day table. Watch my intro video then check out my turkey buffe recipe.
- A turkey buffe (often called ‘buffet’ in poultry shops) is turkey on the bone with the drumsticks removed. It’s much easier to cook evenly than a whole bird. The turkey is first brined to add moisture and flavour, and its skin given some butter-loving before being stuffed with festive tri-coloured quinoa.
- Everybody needs a simple chicken soup in their repertoire: this one is warming, sustaining, nurturing and nourishing. Steaming a whole chicken in the Varoma is brilliant for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, the chicken juices drip over the vegetables and into the mixing bowl, flavouring everything and forming a healthy broth at the same time. Steamed chicken also remains incredibly juicy. It’s a really clean way to cook too, with very little mess to deal with at the end – love you, Thermomix!
- Slow-cooked chicken in 30 minutes? Sounds crazy, right? But that’s what we get with this Mexican chicken: after just half an hour, you end up with shredded chicken that looks and tastes like it’s been slow-cooked for hours. Serve it with your own tortillas and a vibrant salsa and you’ve got a simple but special meal on your hands.