Monday, June 23, 2014
On Friday morning I got up early and helped Bruce load the 19 chickens into cages for the trip to slaughter. We'd raised them for this. Perhaps people would eat less meat if they, just once, were faced with looking their meal in the eye. I'll admit that I felt sad. However, they had good lives as chickens at Frogpond -- sunshine, fresh air, dust baths and kindness during their short time on Earth. Also, they were calm and unstressed, even now.
I watched the truck leave and then had to go inside inside to change out of my farm clothes into my teacher clothes for the day's meeting in town. When I got home in the late afternoon, the chickens had also returned.
They now looked like this.
Bruce and I spent several hours getting them prepared for the freezer. He was in charge of cutting off the necks and preparing them to be vacuum-sealed in bags. I cleaned and packed the livers and them made a soup stock out of the necks, gizzards and hearts. We had a good system between the two of us (would love to have had another sink and faucet in the kitchen, though). We weighed each bird as it was bagged and the average weight was 7 pounds. The total for all 20 birds came to 127.5 pounds. That should last us for at least four months.
This transformation from living creature to food on the table is still a hard one for me to come to terms with. But I did -- with the help of Julia Child and her recipe for Casserole-roasted Chicken with Tarragon.
It was my first-ever attempt at any recipe of hers, but I decided that if ever there was a day to blow the dust off that cookbook, today was that day. What I was looking for was a dish that featured succulent, melt-off-the-bone, fragrantly seasoned chicken. When I turned to the Tarragon Chicken page, I knew I'd found what I was looking for.
And this is why we had to go out searching for a heavy pot (with a lid) that was big enough to hold a 6 1/2 pound chicken.
After braising it in butter and olive oil and then giving it a long simmer in the sealed pot with carrots, onion and tarragon, the chicken looked like this. You will have to imagine the incredible fragrance of the chicken infused with butter and tarragon.
Bruce then made the tarragon sauce from the pan juices. I boiled noodles.
I suppose that we should have sat at the dining table for a more formal dining experience, but we decided to serve the chicken in bowls. As hoped for, the chicken was tender and succulent and fell off the bone.
We ate sitting in front of the TV, watching an old silent film from 1920. Somehow, Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckling about in "The Mask of Zorro" was a fitting accompaniment to eating the best chicken I have ever eaten in my entire life. Bruce agrees.
So, no regrets. Thank you, Julia!