June 8th, 2011 – Happy Chicken part 2.
Since I’d been invited to dinner, I didn’t have time to pluck the cockerels on Tuesday night, so I hung them up overnight, outside my flat. To be honest I would rather have plucked the birds straight away, be careful if you do this, the outside hallway where I live is larder temperature and is closed off from the outside world. Do not hang anything in a warm room and if there are any flies around it’s not safe – they will lay eggs in your meat! Chicken can carry salmonella and e coli, so be careful.
It’s easiest to pluck chicken when freshly killed. Once they have been dead for a while the feathers stick and can be very difficult to remove, especially on the wings. The best way round this is to dip the bird in a bucket of scalding water for a minute, the natural wax holding the feathers in melts and they come out easily. Unless you particularly want the head an neck, there’s no need to pluck it (likewise, the wing tips).
When you have plucked your chicken, you need to cut off the feet and ends of the wing. Afterwards, cut around end where the neck meets the body. If you are careful, you can cut out the crop and gizzard – the crop being a food storage area in the neck, which passes into the gizzard where food is ground up, often with stones that have been swallowed. For obvious reasons, one would normally remove both of these parts and their contents. The gizzard though, can be cleaned and eaten and is considered a delicacy in many countries including France.
Next comes the stomach and digestive system. You can use the way a bird is cut open by a butcher (see the picture above) as an example of where to cut. Ideally you should cut around the anus and up to the breast bone. The cavity needs to be big enough to remove the stomach and its contents. Do the cutting very gently, you do not want to contaminate the meat with faeces. Once you have cut an opening, you can gently pull out the stomach, bowels, liver etc. without spilling anything. Cut away the liver, heart and kidneys, these can be used for stock. Check that the liver looks dark, shiny and healthy. It should not show any spots. Wash out your chicken or cockerel and it’s ready to cook or freeze. You will notice an orange/yellow colouring to the skin in the birds above – this shows that they have been eating lots of corn. Cockerel. like older chicken, can be tough, so it’s very popular to cook them slowly in a casserole, e.g. coq au vin.