you’re like me, you learned to cook using chicken breasts, or perhaps
the whole carcass if you were feeling adventuresome. Once you
start growing your own broilers, though, you’ll probably feel the urge
to eke every bit of goodness out of that animal’s body, both to honor
the chicken’s life and to get more food for your work (and
money.) Harvey Ussery’s The
Small-Scale Poultry Flock suggested eating more parts
of the bird than I’d ever thought possible.
is Ussery’s name for the yolks of various sizes you find inside adult
hens. He harvests all of the yolks from pea size up and drops
them into a bowl of hot broth. My mother-in-law, who grew up poor
in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, knew exactly what I was talking
about when I started telling her about these eggs — they were her
favorite part of the bird.
Fat. Broilers are
generally pretty lean, but if you cull an old hen, you’ll find a big
deposit of fat on her belly. Previously, I’ve discarded this fat,
but fat from pastured livestock is extremely good for you, so I’m
changing my ways. Ussery recommends heating a cast iron frying
pan on low, then adding small cubes of fat. Gently melt the fat
until it has turned into a liquid with a few crinkly bits left
behind. Strain out the cracklings (which you can eat as a snack
or like croutons), then store the fat in the freezer for months, using
it the way you would butter. I’ll have to wait until next year to
try rendering chicken fat because I found a use for mine as soon as it
came out of the bird — I pureed the fat in my food processor then
mixed it in with some ground venison to turn the ultra-lean meat into
Broth. Over the last year,
I’ve come to feel that the broth I make from the carcasses and necks of
my birds is the most wholesome and delicious part of the chicken.
Harvey Ussery’s wife Ellen clearly takes broth seriously as well —
she has an extensive recipe for broth in The
Small-Scale Poultry Flock. Ellen Ussery
recommends not only stewing up the carcass and neck, but also including
the feet, hearts, gizzards, and heads.
Feet. Did you know that if
dunk the chicken’s feet just like you do the rest of the bird before
plucking, it’s relatively easy to peel the scales off and leave clean
feet behind? (This is tougher if you have a feather-footed breed
the cochin I experimented with, but is still quite feasible.)
Feet make a
great addition to the stock pot when you’re cooking down the rest of
the bones to make broth.
Livers. I’m ashamed to say
that I haven’t learned to cook livers in a way I find appealing
yet. I plan to try Ussery’s recipe next year — saute the
onions, then add the livers and cook until just rare; deglaze the pan
with a little wine or sherry and serve. Recipe aside, I was glad
to read that Ussery agrees with me about old livers — the fresh, red
ones from young birds should be eaten, but when they turn yellow and
pale, it’s best to discard the organ.
Ussery mentions that the testicles of mature roosters are also edible,
but I don’t think he’s tried them himself.
Did I leave out any part
of the bird that you like to eat?
broilers are healthy and delicious.