Our chickens came on Tuesday!
After watching and waiting most of the morning, they showed up USPS instead of UPS like I had expected. Which is good because our UPS guy usually comes way at the end of the day, and I would have had to go to plan B for dinner. I was really impressed at how well they were packed, not a huge amount of packing material, but everything was in a mylar bag and it was a good 30-40 degrees cooler inside the bag, and even colder in the cavity of the chickens; definitely withing food safety guidelines.
So the big deal is that the chickens from this particular farm are processed "buddhist style" which doesn't mean anything about buddhism, just that the feet and heads are still attached. My first order of business was to chop them off. I am NOT going to be facing down heads and feet every week of the month. That part wasn't as bad as I had thought, I need to get better aim with the cleaver, but a broiler/fryer is a pretty small chicken so it wasn't too hard to get through the bones.
Then I got one ready for the oven and prepared the other two for freezing. Frankly, this is where I kinda got stuck. I need to look up some better "once a month cooking" recipes for whole chickens, so I can put them together as meals and pop them in the freezer. According to the USDA, fresh raw chicken is only supposed to stay in a home fridge for 1-2 days (although, they were slaughtered on Monday and in my freezer by the end of Tuesday, so it's not like they were sitting around in a supermarket cold case with people picking at them). Anyway, I left one chicken whole with a basic soy sauce, sesame oil and 5 spice marinade, and the other I cut into pieces and covered with olive oil & garlic. Both went into vacuum bags (love 'em!) and then straight to the freezer.
The one I roasted I simply rubbed with salt, pepper and oregano, popped a whole onion in the cavity and threw in the oven for an hour & 15 minutes. Let me tell you people... it was AWESOME! I don't think I've ever had a chicken where the breast meat had so much flavor, usually breast is really bland. And I was really worried that the credit for my tender chicken rested more on the shoulders of Foster Farms than my own... but nope, this bird was tender & juicy. I think because it was a broiler/fryer which is a smaller, younger chicken. Overall, I was impressed. The price is only a little more than organic breast meat, I know the quality is better than factory farmed organic chicken and frankly, it just plain tasted good!
Thursday, I made stock with the bones... I had bones & gibblets from one supermarket chicken, and the carcasses from the chicken I roasted and the one I took apart into pieces. I had roasted the carcass that I had divide up, a trick from my mom to get more flavorful broth. Oh and I also had a bunch of mushroom stems that I'd been throwing in the freezer from cooking for the past few months. I'm a big fan of holding onto veggie scraps to throw in the stock pot. The stock was way easier, I sauteed the gibblets & mushrooms, threw everything in a BIG pot (my husband brews beer so we have some MEGA POTS), covered it with water and threw in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to extract some of the minerals from the bones. Then I let it sit for an hour, brought it to a simmer and let it go for the rest of the day. The tricky part was after I skimmed out the bones, I had to cool the broth quickly to avoid bacteria. Do you remember those little glass plates you grew gross stuff on in science class? Well fresh warm broth is full of all those same nutrients and the perfect temperature for nasties to grow. So you can't just pop your MEGA POT into the fridge and hope for the best, you have to bring the temperature down quickly, by putting it into smaller containers and putting those in an ice water bath and then in the fridge. It was awkward, especially since I was scrambling for containers, but it all got done. I now have broth for one batch of chicken soup, some stew for my lunches next week and a 4 cup container that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with. I also got a lot more meat picked off the bones, so hopefully by the end of the month I'll have enough chicken scraps in the freezer for chili. Lord knows, our jalapenos are already going great guns in the garden!
I would post pictures of the chickenpalooza, but I'm kinda uptight about safety when it comes to food borne pathogens. I'm not one of those people who's going to go back and forth between my camera and handling raw poultry! The broth making... well, I could have taken a picture, but all it would have shown is that my kitchen was a MESS that day!