It took daughter Alaina and me a while to get to the place where we really felt like eating one of the broiler chickens we processed last week. We finally succumbed to the idea of a succulent, moist, broiler – slow cooked in the oven – on Saturday. Alaina had the presence of mind to put the bird out to thaw early in the morning. By the time I had beaten myself to a tired, sore mass from working around the farm all day, I didn’t have the energy to smoke the bird in the Orion smoker, which was our original plan. We’re both glad now that the smoker never got lit.
I’m a firm believer that awesome food can stand on its own; I find that holds true particularly with clean, healthy, home-raised, free-range meat. I don’t put sauce on my steaks and as much as I like smoked chicken, I love heavy broilers roasted simply too.
Since I was out of steam and fading fast, I took the thawed bird, gave it a quick rinse and patted it dry with a paper towel. I took one fresh lemon, cut it in half and squeezed the juice onto the breast-side of the bird and rubbed it in a bit. I then stuck the lemon halves into the broiler’s body cavity. Normally, I would chop a few cloves of garlic and some rosemary, mix it with olive oil and put it under the broiler’s skin – but I was just too beat to mess with the garlic and we didn’t have any fresh rosemary around so I just skipped that step. Ah, the life of a bachelor – no recipe police in sight.
Even though I knew there wasn’t any rosemary to be found, I cruised the fridge for something green and found a small bundle of almost done cilantro. Yep, I just stuffed that bundle of flavor into the cavity behind the lemon halves. The last seasoning step was to sprinkle a little Kosher salt over the entire broiler. I don’t know why I do that, but I have always done it. Perhaps it’s my way of rebelling against my physician – he’s always brooding about my blood pressure.
I don’t have a proper roasting pan so I set the works into a 12-inch ceramic pie plate (the tail stuck out and made a bit of an oily mess in the oven) and shoved it into a 350-degree oven. And there the broiler sat until the juices ran clear and the meat thermometer that Alaina stuck in the breast said the meat was safe to eat. I can’t report on the actual temperature because it just says chicken on the thermometer’s dial.
Once we let the broiler rest for a spell – while picking and tasting beautifully golden morsels – we served ourselves some generous helpings of the most delicious meat. Light or dark, the broiler’s gift was one of juicy, pleasing sustenance. We managed to eat about half the bird on Saturday night. It really went well with the squash soup and spinach salad that Alaina made earlier.
On Sunday we cleaned the carcass of the remaining meat and boiled the bones. The meat went into the crockpot with a mess of dried herbs (poultry seasoning, sage, and some other grey-green stuff), a pinch of salt, one yellow onion diced and half-dozen stalks of celery sliced. Next we dumped a cup of long grain rice into the slow cooker and added sufficient chicken broth (from the boiled bones) to cover the works. We set the crockpot to high for a few hours and then to low. We forgot to time it – but it was on low overnight. The rice was a little on the soft side, but it reminded me of chicken dumplings a bit. In any case, the slow-cooked chicken and rice was positively delicious – no doubt because of the broiler and not my slow-cooking prowess.
As I reflect on the entire raising, processing and eating of that broiler chicken, I can only conclude that it was entirely worth it. Alaina and I both agree that home-raised broilers are positively delicious. With food that good, it’s not a chore to use it up, which makes me feel like that creature’s life was well celebrated and not wasted. I know we’ll smoke one of those broilers soon. Stay tuned.
Photo: iStockphoto: adlifemarketing
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.