Wednesday, January 20

The Frugal Chicken

For as long as I can remember, the decision to eat meat or not has been a conflicted one for me. My mom, the daughter of a banker/cattle farmer, is a vegetarian. She never forced us to follow suit and prepared meat dishes for us growing up. In my 20s, I was a vegetarian for a while but, honestly, it was only because I felt I should be.

At this point, I have a much greater knowledge about what it means to consume animal products from a variety of standpoints, be they environmental, nutritional or karmic. I think about it every time I eat/cook meat, eggs or dairy. While I could fairly effortlessly adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, my family isn't quite there, especially the boys. We strike an easy balance, though, since I don't get complaints when meat isn't on the menu.

So, this leads me to investing considerable energy in finding sources for truly healthful meat. The criteria we judge our purchases by are:
     How was the animal raised?
     Was it fed a diet which God intended it to eat?
     Was it injected with hormones or antibiotics?
     Was it slaughtered humanely? (the ultimate oxymoron, to be sure...)
     Is it local?

For us, the CSA satisfies those questions.

I anticipated (and welcomed) the fact that our shares would push me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen. My mom taught me many wonderful things but I did not grow up seeing her do traditional Southern things like frying chicken or throwing ham hocks into every pot of beans. Gravy? Just the thought of it turns my stomach!

I definitely have a lot to learn...

So when our first delivery included two spring (whole) chickens, I was a little apprehensive. I just wasn't sure about having to take meat off the bone myself. As it turns out, I wish all of our chicken came this way. Preparing them is super easy and the waste is minimal which to me is showing respect to a creature which gave its life for the sake of my dinner. (Mom, I know -- letting it die of old-age would be more respectful.)

Yesterday, I roasted two 3-4 lb. chickens. Here's what I did and what it yielded...

     1. Oven-roasted with onions, pepper and a bit of olive oil.
     2. Pulled the meat off.
     3. Threw everything but the meat into a large pot with carrots, celery and whatever spices I was in the mood for. Thyme, basil, pepper, marjoram and parsley, I think. Poured in enough water to cover and simmered for an hour or so.
     4. Made gravy (for the first time ever.) It's thick and yummy-looking but one taste was enough for me. :)

This work yielded eight cups of meat, four cups of super-yummy stock and two cups of gravy. Considering our portion sizes, the meat is enough for two main dishes and a big bowl of chicken salad and the stock will be used for a third (otherwise meatless) main dish.


  1. loved the post. and the notes to mom throughout!! ha ha.

  2. I love being able to cook a whole, "healthy" chicken. I haven't tried roasting one, but my method is similar. I salt and pepper the bird or maybe use seasoning salt, and stick the whole thing in a crockpot over some onions, carrots, and celery then cook it all day (you could also add garlic and use any seasonings you like). Then I will take the chicken out, pick the meat to use and put the bones back in the crock. After the crock cools, put it in the frig for the night. The next day, take it out and put it back in the heat pot, add water to the top and let it cook in the crockpot on low all day. By the end of the day, you can strain the bones and veggies to leave a wonderful chicken stock. It takes a little longer, but it works great if you are a working mom.