Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting The Most Out Of Chicken....

Last Sunday, I had a craving for some good ole, homemade chicken noodle soup. We had made some last fall and it turned out pretty good, but I looked to improve upon last year’s success and make a better soup this time around. I had a whole chicken in the fridge so I felt there was no better time than now.

To start, plan ahead and determine what you will use the cut up chicken for before you start because with chicken noodle soup, you only use the carcass and the meat that is left on it. I decided I would make fried chicken in a day or two with the pieces I cut up. So, the order of this will have you doing to different parts of two recipes. It will work out in the end, though.

First we need to get this bird cut up in pieces. Very easy process:
1. Place the chicken breastbone-side up on a clean, flat cutting surface.
2. Use a standard, sharp kitchen knife to slice off the wing joints. The wings can be set aside and reserved for stock. One breast and leg is removed at a time. Follow steps 3 through 9 to remove the breasts and legs.
3. Make a shallow incision running along one side of the breastplate.
4. Deepen the incision by slicing into the chicken toward the rib cage. Pull the meat away from the rib cage as you slice down. As you progress further into the bird, slide the knife off of the rib cage repeatedly to ensure that you are removing any meat attached to the rib cage.
5. Your knife will come to a point, just underneath the wishbone, where the wing joint meets the rib cage. The wing joint cartilage is soft enough to slice through easily. Slice completely through the joint, stopping only when your knife reaches the cutting surface. At this point, the breast is almost completely off the bird.
6. Slice through the skin that runs from the tail end of the bird to the point where the leg meets the breast.
7. The breast should come off of the bird with little effort. Pull the breast outwards, away from the bird, being careful not to rip or tear the flesh. You might need to slice through some still-attached skin to remove the breast.
8. Cut through the leg joint until you reach the point where the leg bone meets the body. This joint can be difficult to cut through, so stop cutting when you reach bone. Don't try to cut through the leg bone.
9. Grasp the leg and pull it behind the bird, pressing your fingers into the back of the joint until the joint pops loose. You will feel the bone pop out of the socket. Remove the leg by cutting in and around the joint. Keep cutting until you have freed the leg from the body. Now, turn the bird around and remove the other breast and leg the same way as described above.
10. Place chicken pieces in a bowl and place in the fridge. After the brine cools, you will pour it on the chicken and seal with plastic or a lid over night.

So now to make a brine:

With one cut up chicken, you need:
One half a cup of salt
One half a cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
2 cups of hot water
Mix together so the salt and brown sugar saturate in the water. Let it cool in the fridge.

Chicken Stock for Soup

Now is time to start making the chicken stock. Using a stock pot that is around 12 quarts, add:
2 gallons of water
2 whole clove of garlic, smashed (put the cloves on a cutting board and smash with a pot or mallet)
1 chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
1 large onion, quartered
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary with stems
4 bay leaves
10-15 peppercorns
1-2 whole dried chill peppers (for a little added spice, I dropped in a whole dried cayenne pepper)

Heat it to a boil and then let it simmer for around 4- 6 hours. Add water as needed to keep the chicken submerged. Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large pot discarding everything except the chicken carcass. (You may have to pick through the strainer for chicken pieces that have fallen off the bone.) Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid. Take the cooked chicken carcass and pull all of the remaining chicken from the bone. Refrigerate the chicken pieces until the stock has cooled and the fat has been removed from the stock. If you are not going to make the soup right away, store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. (Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes.)

Making your Chicken Noodle Soup:

Add 4 cups of your chicken stock to a large pot and heat to a boil.
Dice 3/4 cup of celery
Dice 3/4 cup of carrots (Large carrot or baby carrots)
Slice 3/4 cup of Shitake Mushrooms (any mushroom will work, we preferred Shitake)
All chicken pieces pulled from the chicken carcass
2 ounces dried egg noodles, cooked to al dente
Dash of fresh (leaves only) or dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring stock to boil for 2 minutes in a large stockpot over high heat. Add celery and carrots. Lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Add noodles, chicken and Shitake Mushrooms. Cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.

Now for the Southern Style Fried Chicken:

Take the chicken that has been brining (step 10) out of the fridge the next morning. Pour out the brine and pour buttermilk over the chicken until it is covered. Seal it with plastic wrap or a lid and let it sit for another day.

The next day:

In a large bowl, take -
two cups of flower
one cup of masa (finely ground corn meal flower),
3 teaspoons of cajun seasoning,
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Mix thoroughly until completely blended. Heat a large skillet to medium high (about 350 degrees F)with vegetable oil. Take the chicken out of the fridge. Place each piece of chicken in the flower mixture and turn with your fingers until it is completely coated. Using tongs, carefully lower chicken pieces into the oil skin-side down. Start with the edge of the piece close to you, and lay it in the oil, working away from yourself to avoid spatters.

Fry in batches: overcrowding the pan will lower the temperature of the oil, causing more oil to be absorbed and resulting in soggy, greasy chicken.

When the chicken pieces are a deep golden brown, remove them to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to catch any drips. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the chicken to make sure it is fully cooked before moving on to the next batch. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to a minimum of 165 degrees F.

This is the best fried chicken we have ever eaten!

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