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Brewer Burns

Monday, October 02, 2006

Way Too Much Information

I worked so hard yesterday nearly every inch of my upper body aches. I think that calls for a recap.

8:30 a.m.: My mother calls. She wants to know what I want for my birthday and what Stephen and I want for Christmas. Mom, all I have to say is: gift card.

8:50 a.m.: I get out of bed. Since Stephen is tending to the coffee-making (without which I might cease to function entirely) I start breakfast. While brandishing my newly purchased chef’s knife (early birthday present) I weigh the ginormous parsnip that we got in our last CSA share box. A pound and a half. Once I have the parsnip prepped and sliced into thin wafers, I put them in my cast iron skillet with three tablespoons of butter and let the parsnips cook. The goal here is to cook them until they start to brown, thereby signaling that the sugars in the parsnip are beginning to "caramelize" or burn slightly (this is good.)

9:00 a.m. In the middle of the above procedure I remember to take the yeast out of the refrigerator since we plan to brew after breakfast. The yeast needs to warm up to room temperature to be fully effective.

9:13 a.m. The parsnips are in the pan and it’s time for the next procedure of the day. Stephen was planning to dissect the whole chicken that we had purchased but I saw the way he was eyeing the chicken. I could tell that he wanted to disassemble the chicken the way he wanted to gnaw off his own arm, so I offered to do it instead. He was pretty happy about that and agreed to watch the parsnips while I cut up the chicken. Have you ever cut up a chicken? It’s really not that hard. Mainly you just need to have a really sharp knife (and I have a brand-spanking-new one.) Step 1: Remove the wings. Grab each wing in turn and pull it until you hear it snap. The snap means that you have successfully dislocated the wing from the body. This is good. Now, take your knife and make a cut in towards the wing joint (where the wing meets the body of the chicken.) Can you see the joint now? If not, then cut some more. Once you can see the joint, carefully cut away the wing at the joint. Step 2: Legs. You’re going to do to the legs what you already did to the wings. Grab a leg and move it around. Can you tell where it’s joined to the body? Good. You’re going to make a slice right into the joint, so that you can see it. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to attempt to pop the leg out of the socket the same way you popped the wings out of their sockets. Once that is accomplished, you can cut between the leg joint and the rest of the body. Step 3: Breasts. Okay, so you have your armless, legless (headless) bird in front of you, breast side up. What you’re staring at is the top of the breast bone with a breast on each side of it. So, you’re going to slice open the top of the bird, all the way down to the breast bone, then slice along the rib cage, removing as much of the breast meat as possible (preferably in one piece.) A sharp knife really helps this operation. At the same time, you have to be careful to slice deeply enough to get as much meat as possible. Also, watch your fingers. You don’t want to cut yourself slicing a slippery chicken. Step 4: Thighs and Drumsticks. You need to detach the thigh from the drumstick, so grab your two legs again (already detached.) You’re going to play around with the leg until you dislocate the thigh from the drumstick. Then just cut between the joint to fully detach one from the other.

So what do you have now? You have: two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, two breasts, a carcass (consisting of back, ribs, neck, and whatever giblets and whatnot that the butcher stuck down inside the chicken.) You know what to do with the individual parts, I’m sure, but what about the carcass? Do you toss it in the garbage? Feed it to the dog. No and NO! You make stock.

Once I finished dissecting the chicken I put the legs, thighs, and breasts into a casserole dish filled with buttermilk, covered it and put it in the refrigerator. I put the wings, carcass, and assorted bits into a bag and put those in the fridge as well.

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Finished with breakfast, Stephen I brewed beer. We made a chocolate stout. Very dark, very malty. Since we’ve been making beer together for about three years now we have it down to a science. During the down times I worked on my backyard leaves scarf, whose chart I had finally memorized.

1:30 p.m. Once the beer was tucked away in the corner, we cleaned the kitchen, and I started the stock pot. To make really fabulous chicken stock, first take out your chicken bits. The defining characteristic of chicken stock is the presence of extracted collagen. Collagen comes from the chicken bones (not from the meat.) In order to extract as much collagen as possible from the bones, it really helps to break up the bones as much as possible before you put them into the stock pot. Once the bones have been broken up a bit, put them into the stock pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring them to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Then it’s time to add some vegetables and spices. I generally add: onions, garlic, carrots, celery, sometimes a potato and a handful of whole peppercorns. The great thing about making stock is that you don’t have to peel or slice anything. Cut the onions into quarters, leaving the skin on, smash the garlic with the blade of your knife and slice the carrots and celery in half and throw them in the pot. Then you want to lower the heat to a low boil over low heat and let cook for several hours. I left mine on the stove for eight hours.

2:30-6:30: Worked on backyard leaves while watching the first season of The Office (the BBC version.) I love the American version but the BBC version is really fantastic too. I finished Backyard Leaves right before I made dinner. I am unhappy with the way that I joined the two ends and may rip it out and do it again. The problem is that I don’t know what to do differently.

6:30-7:30 Dinner: fried chicken. Okay, the first thing you must know about me is that I am a Good Eats junkie. I love Alton Brown the way that teenage girls the world over love Justin Timberlake. I use his method of making fried chicken. First, marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least eight hours. Next, set up your stations. Station 1: the seasoning station. This should consist of a plate to put your raw chicken on and a shaker full of your favorite fried chicken seasoning. I used garlic pepper, cayenne, salt, and coriander. Station 2: the dredging station. A gallon freezer bag with enough flour to coat the chicken pieces. Station 3: the frying station. A frying pan, preferably cast iron, filled with enough oil to cover half of the chicken pieces. Alton (yes, we’re on a first name basis) uses shortening. I used peanut oil because I had it. The oil needs to be between 350 and 375 degrees to properly fry the chicken. Also helpful is a splash guard. Station 4: Cooling rack. A metal rack set over paper towels for the chicken to cool and drip grease onto once they’re done. Once the oil is just about ready, prepare the chicken by: seasoning, dredging, and then placing into the oil. Fry until golden brown and delicious on the outside, and done on the inside. Then let cool on your cooling racks for about ten minutes. Eat!

After Dinner: After dinner I blocked my backyard leaves scarf. After squinting at the join on the scarf long enough to really and seriously believe that I’m going to find the end that I had already woven in, undo the seaming, and redo it (in some more improved fashion that I have yet to decide on,) I then cast on Miss Dashwood. Wait, no, first I took out all the needles in my needle vase looking for a size six 16" circular needle, found none, and then decided that a set of five dpn’s would do the job. Right. Anyway, I did manage to cast on the 169 stitches called for in the pattern. I’m going to my LYS today, at lunch, and buying the circular needle. The dpn’s are just barely long enough to hold all the stitches and they’re driving me nuts.

Last thing I did before I went to bed: kissed Stephen good night. But right before that, I poured the stock into gallon size freezer bags and made room for it in the downstairs freezer.


At 5:16 PM, Blogger Moni said...

Wow! You were busy! I'm seriously impressed!!

I am also a huge fan of Alton Brown. His intructions on cooking brown rice is brilliant. Way less mess to clean up.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Glaistig said...

Whew! I'm tired. And hungry after reading about chickens and beer. Kisses with the hubby before bed and pouring chicken stock. How can you beat that?


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