It was 1989 in rural Shawnee, OK and I was not quite a teenager. My older brother had become enamored with the idea of having several chickens to raise - a task which proved far more difficult than we could have imagined as many wild things like to devour chicken as a midnight snack while the rest of us are sleeping. We eventually learned how to protect our babies and their eggs, avoiding danger from the big, bad wolf. There is no place where the circle of life is more poignantly displayed than on a farm. Animals give birth, animals die, we eat the animals. Knowing this, I’m not quite sure why I was surprised when it came time to butcher a few of the chickens - naturally, we had named each of them. I was a little slow on the uptake back then as I still am now. I’ve never had an exceptionally strong stomach and one would think farm-life would have sent me straight to devout vegetarianism. One afternoon, with little warning as to what would ensue, I found my outdoor activity abruptly disturbed as chickens were taken out to the butcher block. No classroom-taught, nervous system science lesson can compare to the automatic response of a freshly slain chicken. As it hopped to its feet and raced about in a headless frenzy of chaos, I mirrored its activity in equal frantic behavior. In that moment, I believed in all things angel and demon, life after death, and the need for exorcism - much to the humor of all those around me. Several chickens were de-feathered, cleaned, and preserved that day while I stood by - mostly watching and hardly helping. As time marched on I learned many different ways to prepare chicken and this lean and versatile bird has a place on our family’s table at least twice every week. As a light, cold salad on a crostini or a hearty, comforting main course, chicken is sure to leave tummies full and hearts happy.
1 whole organic chicken
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 stick of salted butter cut into 8 Tbs.
6 slice bacon
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbs. olive oil
Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Place chicken breast side down and beginning at thigh end of chicken cut along ones side of the backbone with a pair of very sharp kitchen shears; repeat on the other side of the backbone and discard. Flip chicken over and open it like a book; press firmly on breastbone to flatten.
Take 4 cloves of peeled garlic and smash with flat side of a knife. Put the garlic in a cluster on your roasting pan and place chicken over the garlic. The smashed garlic will steam during roasting and flavor the chicken from the inside out. Using a finger gently separate the chicken skin from the meat and stuff 3 tablespoons of butter between the skin and flesh of each breast and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter between the skin and flesh of each thigh. Gently rub the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon olive oil and generously sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper and dried oregano. Sprinkle on the rosemary. Lay strips of bacon vertically across the body of the bird and continue on the thighs. Roast in a 400 degree oven, basting often, for approximately 1 hour or until meat thermometer reaches 190 degrees.
Chicken Cucumber Salad
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3-4 breasts)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
3/4 cup fresh corn
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 cup cucumber vinaigrette
Fresh chives for garnish
Poach chicken breasts, cool, and dice. Combine chicken, corn, onion, avocado, cucumber, and cucumber vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a toasted crostini. Garnish with chopped, fresh chives.
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 TBS white wine vinegar
2 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS fresh chives
1/2 cup olive oil
Place cucumber, vinegar, mustard, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.