Saturday, July 17, 2010

from coop to table

back in october i decided to leave the swingin' bachelorette pad and move out to the sticks to be with the boy who has loved me for as long as i can remember. and back in october i said to myself, "self - if you're gonna go out to live in an old farmhouse on two acres you need to go all out." and so we have.

and this week we really went all out and it was fucking delicious.

meet the ducks.

mike found these lil' guys 3 for $10 at the flea market back in may. the ducks eventually made friends with the chickens and we fed them and loved them and raised them all with the thought of duck fat fried potatoes in the back of our heads.

here they are just a few days ago.

pekin ducks are ready to butcher around 8 weeks old. too much longer and they molt and get their pin feathers and from what i've read it's very difficult to pluck them.

i've been trying to mentally prepare for this event for weeks and weeks. i've read and read and read - books, magazines, blogs. but i knew none of them would prepare me for the actual killing.

and i was right.

when mike made the first cut and the duck squirmed - i cried. alot. i have never hunted and i have never raised animals for food before. i've been fishing but this was different. actually killing the duck was difficult. it made me really think about being a carnivore. and i had told myself earlier that if i couldn't do this - kill the ducks and chickens - then i didn't deserve to eat meat.

but i did it. and after the initial shock it was ok. i love eating duck. and i don't want to stop eating duck. and what better duck to eat than my own?

after the throat slitting we dunked the ducks in hot water to loosen up the feathers.

and then we started to pluck. this was insanely time consuming. and it smelled pretty bad too.

mike handled the eviscerating and the butchering. i want to learn and watched and listened intently so when it's time to say goodbye to the cocks i'll be ready. that's right - i said cocks. we were supposed to have six hens but instead we have two hens. and sometime in august we will be saying au revoir to the cocks.

once they were all cleaned up (and after about 30 minutes per bird with some tweezers) one went into the freezer whole and the other was cut up for some good eats.

i'm going to try my hand at confit with the legs and wings (they are rubbed with salt and herbs in the fridge right now!) so i saved every scrap of fat to render down for that. fat....

and the carcass got bagged up and added to the freezer for some duck stock at a later date.

so for my very first coop to table meal i went with the duck breasts. mmm. i love duck breast. it is such a rich meat. delicious. one of my favorites.

i scored the skin on the breasts and seared them over medium high heat until they were nice and brown.

while the meat was searing i started to saute my green beans. i blanched/shocked these earlier and while they were sauteeing i whipped up mike's favorite butter/lemon/dijon sauce for them.

oh, and well before any of this green beans or duck searing took place i got a potato gratin in the oven.

look at these breasts! luscious!

while the duck rested i started the sauce. i dumped out most of the fat from the pan (don't worry - i saved every drop!) and sauteed a small minced white onion. then i added a lil' chicken stock, some port wine, a lil' honey and some sour cherries. i whisked and whisked while it reduced to a nice glaze.

and here it is - the fruits of our coop!

this. was. awesome.

and i will loudly and proudly toot my own horn on this one.
toot! toot!

mike said i nailed it and it was one of the best meals i have ever made. score!

this whole thing was an incredible experience and i am thrilled that i will be doing it for many, many years to come.

oh, and for good measure - a blueberry cobbler!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

is that a spatchcock on the grill,
or are you just happy to see me?

i remember loving when we'd have cornish game hens at christmas instead of turkey. each of us got our own lil' bird and i just thought that was the coolest.
and i remember them being pretty darn tasty too.

so when i noticed that one of my favorite local chicken farmers had them available i decided to pick some up.

i didn't want to just roast my cornish hens in the oven for a couple of reasons. 1. it's freakin' hot outside and turning on the oven sucks and 2. grilling is usually a far superior cooking method anyways. i had to do some research and during the course of this research i learned two extremely interesting things.

cornish game hens are NOT game birds! did you know that? i didn't. they are just really young chickens - like 5 weeks old or so. a little misleading huh? they kill 'em really young so they're cute and little and have tender white meat. and all those holidays i thought i was easting something exotic. nope. just baby chicken.

the other thing i learned was the term spatchcock.
spatchcock! haha! i had to try it!

so basically spatchcock is really just a much cooler way of saying "butterfly" though i guess it just pertains to poultry. i don't think you can spatchcock shrimp but you can spatchcock cornish hens and chickens. spatchcock! spatchcock! spatchcock!
i just love saying it!

i consulted my book shelf - specifically steven raichlen for some tips and i went to work.

i took my kitchen shears and cut down the length of the hens from the neck to the ass on both sides of the backbone to remove it. then i flipped 'em over and flattened 'em out. some sources suggested removing the breast bone too but these were tiny little birds and i didn't bother. (note - next time i will bother.)

i rubbed 'em down with some olive oil and a blend of salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano and black pepper.

while the birds were relaxing i started a few other things. first of all i made croutons. homemade croutons are one of the finer things in life. if you're not making your own croutons please start. it's easy and so, so, so delicious.

i use whatever bread i have hangin' around and this time i went with a couple of herb rolls i won in a raffle at the farmer's market on saturday. while i cubed up the rolls i melted about 1/4 stick of butter in the microwave. once the butter was melted i stirred in a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan - you know, "spaghetti cheese" - along with a lil' salt and pepper. i added the cubed rolls to a bowl and poured the buttery mix over top and stirred and tossed. then i baked them in the oven for about 10 minutes or so until golden brown and crusty. mmm....croutons....

i also did some brussel sprouts. no, these are not from our garden BUT we will have some at some point! we planted a whole row for god's sakes!

for the brussels i just halved them and sauteed them in a lil' olive oil and butter and then finished 'em with a nice squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

once the brussels were started and the salads were fixed (lettuce & onion from the garden!) i got my spatchcocked birds on the grill. i also took a tip from gin's pseudo-father-in-law and grilled some onions. i selected a couple of smaller ones from the garden, halved them and then tossed them with a lil' olive oil and salt and pepper.

i started the birds skin side down and cooked them for about 10-12 minutes. then i flipped them and cooked them for another 5 minutes or so. by then the onions were finished up too.

here are my birds once they made their way back indoors. mmm!

and here's the whole spread. a delightful sunday feast!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

not much to report... i think i'll i'll post a photograph of our new kitten. his name is hank leroy and he is ridiculously cute. he also likes to play in the garden with me.

[insert "crazy cat lady" comments here.]