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.
Listen is as I solve your chicken dilemmas by pointing to some of my favourite chicken recipes and techniques. Plus, there are heaps of other great chicken recipes on the site. Dive in here.
‘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.
- I first made this soup for a friend who wasn’t well and needed a chicken soup cure! I can’t promise this soup will cure all ills but it is simple and nourishing with comforting tones and a cheery promise of sunshine. These flavours and textures remind me of suburban Chinese restaurants, though I don’t at all pretend my version is traditional. I make my own creamed corn but you can also use tinned. As with all homemade dishes, the quality of the ingredients shines through. Great chicken and stock will make a big difference to the end result.
- A good matzo ball (in my opinion) is fluffy and has some texture. That's why I make my own matzo meal so I can keep some larger crumbs, and I beat my egg whites separately. My radical intervention is to add a few Vietnamese flavours, inspired by pho noodle soup
- My version of this curry classic pays homage to the original 1950s Delhi version but it's super easy and quick. The flavour of the curry powder is key to this dish - its worth making my vadouvan curry powder but any good blend will do the trick.
- 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!
- This picnicky version of san choi bau is healthy, crunchy and energising not to mention gluten-free. This quantity will last two children for approximately three days. The chicken makes great sandwich filling too.
- Yum! I love this big, flavoursome salad. It’s Thai-inspired with lots of fresh herbs and lime, and the spark of green chilli. Of course, you can leave the chilli out if you like!
- Chicken liver pate is nutritious and inexpensive - we should all be eating more of it! And now we all can because we have this super simple and delicious recipe from chef Charlie Carrington. Traditionally, pate is tricky and time-consuming. This method is fast, simple and foolproof. I know you're going to love it.
- Rendang is a typical Malaysian curry, an absolute favourite that's loved all around the world. There are countless variations - today's is cooked by Malay cookbook author Suriya Abdullah, who I was delighted to spend time with in Kuala Lumpur.
- I am a biiiiiig Jo 'Quirky Cooking' Whitton fan - and my fandom leapt up a notch when I tried her Chicken Pot Pies. As well as being grain-free, dairy-free and gluten-free they are creamy and crispy in all the right places and downright tasty and wholesome all round.