Monday, August 30, 2010


I have to admit, trussing and breaking down a chicken can be tricky, yet it is a dying art form.  With the invention of the ready-pack chicken parts package and elastic type strings butchers use to wind the bird into a proper shape for roasting, there is no need for the home cook to know this right??? WRONG!  They charge you for that.  Buy a whole chicken and fabricate it at home, save yourself some money in these trying economic times.  In this blog I will show you how to truss a chicken the proper way, resulting in an evenly cooked, moist chicken/turkey/duck/pheasant /quail/game hen etc.... ALSO I will show you how to break down the chicken into parts for frying, grilling, roasting.  I would like to thank my sister Jeana for helping out and taking these pictures. She was paid in a Netflix movie (ZombieLand) Tecate beer, and the resulting Chicken and dumplings from the leftover chicken.

Before anything I make sure my knife is sharp, my work surface is clean and my cutting board is stable and does not move (I put a damp towel under it).  I trim a bit of the neck skin off and the inside flaps of extra skin in between the legs.  Now we can start.
Tuck the wings behind the back as if it were relaxing on a beach.

Both wings are tucked behind the back, now lay the chicken down and cut a long length of butchers twine.

Place the twine under the chicken just at the "elbows".  Leave even lengths on both sides of the bird.

Pull the twine into the "armpits"

Wrap the twine around the wings once.
Pull the twine to the inside of the legs so as not to disturb the breast meat.
Pull the twine to the outside of the legs.
Make a simple knot.
Make sure the knot is tight and the legs cross over one another.
Double knot it to make sure it won't slip while roasting.
Trim the excess twine and there you have it!  A perfectly trussed chicken.  I happen to like this way because it does not cut into the breast meat and leaves all the parts intact and very juicy.  When roasting, remember to season the outside AND the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. 

The main trick to the successful fabrication of a bird of any type is having a sharp knife and knowing where the joints are.  There is nothing worse than dulling your knife out one some bone.  If you can locate the joints on the bird, cutting through the cartilage is quite simple. 

Lying the chicken face down, pull the wing taught.  Locate the bulge from the joint.  With the tip of your knife pointing away from the chicken, make an angular cut through the cartilage

It should be a nice and straight cut with no jagged bone.

With the chicken on its back, pull the leg and make a light cut through the skin on the inside of the thigh so that the meat is exposed.

Pull the body away from the leg. The ball and socket joint are now visible.

Grab the leg and thigh firmly and rotate your wrist outward to disjoint the leg, make a cut to detach the meat from the body.

This is the whole leg. On the inside of the leg you will find a fat line that runs like a border from the thigh to leg.  With your finger, gently feel for the joint of where the two meet.  Make a cut to separate them if desired.

Now that the legs and wing sections are removed, we can get to the breast meat.  Feel where the keel bone is (the center of the bird), Place your knife on the outside, but very close to the keel bone.

Make a straight cut towards the back. As you reach near the neck, flair the cut outward.

Gently and carefully carve the breast fillet away from the carcass.  In this picture the breast fillet is seen with the inner fillet or tenderloin still attached.

Repeat on the other side.

I turn the chicken the other way so I am back to working on the same side as before.  Visible are the flared cuts at the neck.  we make these cuts to avoid bones.

There you have it!  The completely fabricated chicken.  Now you can do many things with one bird.  Roasted leg quarters, butterflied and grilled chicken breast, barbecued wings.  Wait...what about the carcass?...I am a firm believer in not throwing away any part of the gave its life for your sustenance, the least you could do is use its whole body.  SO Roast the carcass on top of some mirepoix (see last post) until all are dark brown, place into a pot with water and a bit of marsala wine and ye shall have one hell of a chicken broth (which can be frozen)

I hope this has been helpful and informative to all of my loyal readers.  Thanks for joining me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Here I am.  I hadn't gone any where.  I originally planned to post this 2 weeks ago, however, the picture formatting put my monitor screen in some danger with my fist.   So now I am well rested and will give it another go.
I have a sister, Jeana, she was born in March of 1988.  I am five years her elder.  My OTHER sister is in fact my cousin.  We grew up together and our parents made sure to keep us close.  We were always interested in food.  Our parents would let us make these horrific creations or bad recreations of recipes I would get from "Savour" magazine that I would steal from my orthodontist's waiting room.  We all laugh now that we are food professionals and food bloggers.  How far we have come.  Her Mother by the way is a professional photographer...and she just "happened" to stop by on this day!  How lucky are we???

Lactose is a concern for several friends and family, including your humble author.  We needed our meal to be cheap, lactose free, and delicious of course.  We wanted to make ravioli.  Ricotta is a main component of ravioli and it is lactose we made our own lemon ricotta.

  We took 3/4 cup lemon juice with one capful of white vinegar.  1/2 gallon of Lactaid whole milk.  Brought the milk up to 180 degrees F and turned off the flame.  We added the lemon juice and vinegar and stirred a bit.  We let it sit for 10 minutes and then we strained it through a fine mesh strainer ( just like in the last post).  We held the ricotta in the refrigerator in the strainer to make sure all the whey had been removed.  

For the filling we used Parmigiana (which is almost void of lactose sugars) garlic powder, sauteed shallots, chopped swiss chard, one egg and of course, the ricotta.  It is safe to assume that everything I make is seasoned with salt and pepper...never in a million years will two little ingredients like this change the way people taste their food more than these have. ( A close second is my favorite combination of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce) 
the components of our filling
seared pork neck

To make the sauce we took some mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion 25-25-50%) sauteed it with a little chopped garlic and basil.  We deglazed with red wine and added chopped plum tomatoes and a large can of tomato juice.  In another pot we seared the pork neck after we dusted them with some seasoned flour. 

Once the necks were browned, I added more red wine and scraped up all of the brown goodness from the bottom of the pan(called FOND) This whole process is called deglazing.  After deglazing I added my tomato juice and chopped tomato, fresh basil salt and pepper, simmered for about 2 hours. I dont know why the pictures are f-ed up, but I'm getting a bit punchy.

Now for the cousin Lauren took care of this one, forming a well after she weighed the flour out.  She added the wet ingredients to the flour and salt mixture and began to slowly incorporate the flour in with the wet ingredients.

We adjusted our doughs consistency with a little olive oil and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour.  Once it was ready, we rolled out the dough and laid the sheets on the table.  We placed our filling on the sheets, egg washed around the dough and topped them with another layer of pasta.  We crimped the edges using a ravioli cutter and wouldn't you know it, we had ravioli!

assembling the ravioli
ravioli in its purest form just lactose free!
We  put on a pot of salted water, cook the ravioli just until they were floating.  After cooked, they were placed on a beautiful dish, topped with the sauce and a piece of the delicious braised neck bone.

This is a super abbreviated version of the days happenings, however, this was a good way to share our joint talents and the talents of Loretta Miles, whose photos do the real explaining here.  Another tidbit is that we used the tomato, the swiss chard and basil all from Laurens garden, making us spend a total of $20 or so for the whole thing.  I would like to invite you to visit and look at what Laurens up to.  Thank you again, I now must go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Long Awaited guide to Kitchen Gadgets and Tools!!!

It's late. Like 11 o'clock late.  I promised my facebook followers and strangely anonymous fans through e-mail, that I would have a new entry by tomorrow morning.  I was off today after one of the longest weekends I have ever worked...not getting into it but let's just say on Saturday I went in at 8:30 in the morning and I was not home until 2:45 Sunday morning.  Yet here I am, relaxing, typing away for your education and amusement, drinking my third Miller High Life and...what?  Miller High Life isn't classy enough for you?  I have better beer in the fridge, I just tend to like the cold glass bottle crispness of Miller okay?  Besides, it's the Champagne of beers I'll have you know.  Anyway, let's get on with this entry...brought to you in part with some encouragement from my wonderful Mother In Law, Adria Halstead-Johnson...we had a foodie chat tonight on Skype and it was wonderful...Thanks!

Yes I made those words up. 
Having the proper tool in the kitchen is critical in achieving the desired result of any meal or food item you embark on making...unless you want it to come out like which case anything will do, a coat hanger perhaps.  You walk into Bed Bath and Beyond and are confronted at the left hand wall with an army of kitchen utensils, flanked by aisles of cutting boards, colanders, cutting board-colanders, baskets, and banana hangers???  Is there really a reason for a 40 ft. vertical display of vegetable peelers?   I am inclined to believe that the home cook can accrue more kitchen tools and gadgets than the professional chef...not that we don't like them, we are just a wee bit more practical.  "But what about my shrimp deviener?  You know, the plastic hook thingy that is supposed to remove the poop vein out of my shrimp?  what about that? huh?"  Well just use a friggin pairing knife...(Future blog idea on how to prepare beef, chicken and seafood)

The Convertible Colander by OXO
COLANDER   Everyone needs one.  To rinse vegetables, to strain out your pasta, clean lettuce, etc.  Which one is the right one for you ?  I would lean towards a small to medium sized colander constructed out of metal, not plastic.  Oh, one with holes would be preferred.  My wife and I were gifted one by the OXO company which is a CONVERTIBLE colander.  It basically means it is rectangular and has fold down legs to be a normal colander or the legs can fold out to suspend the colander in your sink (more like a prep strainer).  Very nifty.

MESH STRAINER   You have seen these before.  I am a fan of these.  In the industrial kitchen they are a little more rugged, larger and we call them a "chinois" pronounced "shin wa".  If you ever want to try out a classical french recipe, or a real refined recipe at home (meaning anything from the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, or Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell) you will want this implement for your sauce.  Fine mesh strainers remove all the impurities, little bits of food, a skin that formed perhaps, and just about anything else in a sauce that you would normally just pass off as being a homemade meal.  Using this will make a world of difference in how your food looks and tastes, bringing it to a different level...or notch depending on what TV Chef you fancy.  They are fairly inexpensive and are worth every penny.
RUBBER SPATULA  You should already own one.  If you don't I will give you good reason to get one immediately.  They just make life easier.  I strongly recommend Rubbermaid's line of heat resistant rubber spatulas (about $15).  You can use them for preparing omelets in the morning, scraping bowls to get that last bit of cake batter eat of course, folding ingredients in, getting that clumpy flour-coated butter on the side of your mixing bowl while you are mixing your cookie dough.  There really are a slew of practical uses for these priceless implements which also include a close relative which is shaped sort of like a spoon actually referred to as a "spoonula"... I likey.
WHISK  Self explanatory really.  Get one that is stainless steel, and has a large handle, none of that spring-wound handle crap. Use this for whipping egg whites, whipped cream, really getting your eggs to scramble making vinaigrettes, sauces marinades, etc.

KITCHEN SHEARS  They are scissors for the kitchen.  They cut through the backbone of a chicken effortlessly.  They are easy to clean and for some reason stay really sharp all of the time.  I have a pair of Kitchen-Aid shears that have never been sharpened and are used from cutting chickens, to wrapping Christmas gifts...not joking either.  Buy a good pair ($20-$40) and you will have shears for life. 

HONING STEEL  I might or might not have mentioned this one in my knife entry.  Each time you use your knife, you create microscopic burrs on the blades edge.  These burrs can bend and fold and create your standard dull house knife.  A good honing steal will straighten these burrs and maintain your knifes edge for much longer.  A good one is fairly heavy, 8"or more, and slightly magnetized.  Another thing to invest in and you will never buy another.  ($40-$120)
DIGITAL TIMER  Digital...not wind up ding ding type.  They are worth every penny and are very affordable. One AAA battery will last you a lifetime and the loud noise of an electric alarm gets your ass in the kitchen stat when your cookies are burning.

TONGS  It still shocks me on how many people do not cook with tongs at home.  These are an extension of my hands.  I use these every day for everything.  Get not one pair, but several and you will understand why.  They come in different lenghts, I usually tend to like the longer ones, and the medium sized ones...the small ones always seemed pointless to me.  Also try and get ones that are spring tensioned and are made of stainless steel.  The pair shown are made also by OXO. ( $15)

VEGETABLE PEELER  Get one that is more than $1 please.  the rickety pieces of junk around at the dollar store really aren't making any ones life any easier, they just make your fruit and veggies look like you ran them over with your car.  I prefer Y shaped peelers as they are more ergonomically sound than the sideways straight peelers of the stone age.  The one pictured here is the STAR peeler by Zena of Switzerland and is the same type issued to me upon entering the Culinary Institute of America way back in 2001. ($8)

SPATULAS  Again another tool I'm sure you have.  Do you have a fish spatula??? no????Dear Lord, read on.  Fish spatulas are great not just for fish.  The have a slightly filed edge to them and are of a thinner metal construction so they are extremely effective in lifting foodstuffs off of sheet pans and cookie trays with ease.  Also, they are great for fish.  A good one goes for anywhere from $15 to $40.  Another item that is worth every penny.

SPOONS AND LADLES  I have one rule, get all metal stainless construction.  Yes wooden spoons are classic, shit I actually thought they were just made so Italian mothers didn't have to hurt there hands while kicking ass.  However, the cheaper ones get roughed up very easy (maybe after 4 washings) and can harbor bacteria, and I don't like that at all.  If you do like wood, and olive wood spoon is safest in my eyes. Try if you can to get a slotted spoon, they help.  A perfect sized ladle is a 6-8 oz for home use. 

WOOD CUTTING BOARD  I know the plastic ones are cheaper and easier to clean...but you have to think of your knife.  Wood cutting boards are sturdier, and more forgiving to a knifes edge than any other surface...don't even say glass cutting board or I will find you.  Proper care of these is to soak with warm water and a bleach solution, let dry and then lightly rub some mineral oil on it to keep it in top condition.

Well, there you have it.  I hope I have answered some questions.  I know I will get some e-mails with new questions, but like I said, you can have your juice trumpets, and mango corers, but these are the staple tools for you to really be successful at home.  Cook well...

please send any questions directly to Chef Paul at: