So a couple of years ago, one of our friends messaged me with a poultry emergency. It wasn’t the first time a backyard farmer had called with some kind of chicken issue, but she was in a real bind. She ordered chicks from a well-reputed chicken supplier and had ordered as many as she needed for her backyard flock – 11. BUT, what she didn’t know is that 11 chicks in a box will be too cold and likely would not have made it in the long journey from the Midwest on a plane for two days. You really need 25 chicks to make it safely. The supplier knew it and filled in the rest of the box with “free” rooster chicks. You may already know this… no one wants 14 roosters. Especially in a backyard in Corvallis.
And that’s how we would up with our first batch of meat birds at the farm. They were just male versions of laying hens breeds, not really a designer meat breed so it took about 20 weeks before they were anywhere near ready for slaughter. By then they were all crowing away at 5am, driving us and all our neighbors crazy. After we shared with the friends who gave them to us (same person who helped with the slaughtering/cleaning), and paid off our poor patient neighbors, we only had a few left for the freezer.
The chickens we did have were so very delicious that Paul was committed to more birds the next season. Our flock of 25 Cornish Meat Chickens were great little chickens. All white, very docile, good eaters, and not terribly ambitious flyers. They grew so fast, they never were old enough to crow, which cut down on our neighbor maintenance fees. We lost a few early on, and about 6 to the neighborhood bobcat family. We did share with Justin who came out again to process them, but all in all we wound up with about 12 lovely, large birds in the freezer.
When we bring one out, it’s for a special occasion and they are often prepared this way:
- One whole chicken (5-6 lbs)
- Brine (optional)
- 2 lemons, small & cut in half
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp butter (for roasting dish)
- 2 Tbsp butter (for chicken)
- Salt & Pepper
If you’re me, you have to begin by thawing out the chicken in the fridge for a couple of days. Our birds are actually about 7 pounds so it takes a while. Then you rinse them in the sink and pick off all the feathers your husband left on while cleaning 🙂
You’ll probably just want to start with the brine. Most chickens bought at the grocery store won’t require a brine, but it is still a really nice way to improve the flavor of your bird. If you are raising your own chickens or getting them from a local farmer, this is a step you definitely won’t want to skip. Full instructions here.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter the inside of your roasting dish. I find it makes a nicer presentation if your roasting dish is just big enough to fit your roaster. First salt and pepper the bird – inside and out. Fill the bird cavity with onion, lemon, and garlic. massage the legs and breast with butter, then place it breast-up in the roasting pan. If you like, add a about 1/4 cup of your favorite white wine. I’m using a local Bethel Heights Chardonnay in this example because it is a little sweet, spicy, and fruity which I think will go well with the lemony, buttery perfume.
Cover with a lid or some aluminum foil. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste well with it’s own juices, remove the lid/foil and bake for another 30 minutes. This last stretch will bring out the lovely brown color you want.
After the chicken is done baking, take it out of the oven, and cover again for about 15 minutes. This resting period will help the chicken cool, which in turn, helps it retain the yummy juices. It will also make it easier to carve.
Around here I carve the chicken so I can get as much meat off the carcass as possible and salvage the bones for stock. Drumsticks, wings, thighs, breasts. As soon as the meat is off the bird, the bones go on to simmer. By the time dinner/dessert is done, so is the stock. It’s a simple step and really worth doing. If you haven’t already gotten into the habit of making stock, here’s a quick step-by-step to home made chicken stock.