First, we need to talk about where to buy a chicken. It’s all too common these days to have neighbors and local butchers with local chickens. So rather than buying the boneless skinless chicken breast that rests on styrofoam under plastic in the grocery store, that chicken whose life was spent indoors in a mass growing facility full of filthy over fed chickens, who has been stabbed near to death with injections of hormones and antibiotics, whose breasts are so impossibly large that is unable to stand erect, instead of that, might I suggest that the effort and money in procuring a local, preferably butcher paper wrapped chicken is quite naturally the only way to go.
This is my preferred method, the purchasing of a local free range hen. For while I’m devouring the once thriving lady, I want to picture it pecking its way through a field of tall meadow grasses, nibbling on grubs and insects and vibrant lush greens. I am an omnivore, after all. I like to see my food groups at play together, to see the chicken dancing through the cover crops of a field, fertilizing as it nibbles, creating a vibrant micro-biome where soon the vegetables I will eat are to be grown. Yes, this is a vibrant system that I am partaking in.
There is sufficient reason to purchase the whole hen versus its various parts. A waste not want not approach to eating is certainly a good reason to start from, but the reasons don’t have to stop there.
Reason 1: Flavor; bones, skin and good grazing give chicken so much flavor!
Reason 2: No added hormones that bring on early puberty or crazy hormone reactions in individuals and a careful use of antibiotics, helping the world steer clear of more superbugs.
Reason 3: Soooo many meals can come from 1 chicken!
Reason 4: Chicken Skin! A little fat one day a week isn’t going to hurt, it actually just might heal that wound deep in your soul you didn’t know existed.
Reason 5: Chicken is so versatile with loads of opportunities to change and morph flesh into decadent sustenance.
There are so many ways to cook a chicken. I might be prone to roast this whole bird in a nice hot oven, or perhaps to boil it in a large vat of water with herbs and vegetable scraps, or even to set it on the barbecue with a nice can of beer inside it’s…cavern. I may even be prone to cut out the breast to use for a quick saute dish, then leave the rest to boil, or roast. Whatever I choose to do with the flesh, I am certain to make broth from the carcass. The broth allows me to extend the chicken into a multitude of meals. I can use it shredded in many things, I can use the broth and meat in soup. The broth I can drink on its own, with a bit of rosemary salt, to fortify my body systems, or perhaps as a nutrient dense base for cooking grains and rice.
I must confess, though, that I have never deboned a chicken, I have never seen the need. My style of cooking is simple and straightforward and the less work I need to do with ANY ingredient is best for me. I will admit, though, that I have spatchcocked a bird; in part because that word is simply just so fun to say. Spatchcock. Spatchcocking is essentially a process in which the chicken loses its backbone allowing the bird to lie flat on a cooking surface. This effort allows the chef not only a much faster cook time, but also more surface area to season. While spatchcoking, deboning, and cutting apart the chicken into pieces are favorite ways to deal with the bird, I prefer giving all of those methods the middle finger (get it, “the bird”) and deal with the whole damn thing, intact, apart from the head I mean, I’ve never dealt with that.
So , now this, my friends, is what I like to do. I do not rinse the chicken, nor do I pat it down with a cloth. I cannot imagine doing such things. I smother the chicken in, around and above the skin with sweet paprika and chive butter. I sprinkle it’s empty body cavity with seasoned salt. I roast this on a cookie sheet or in a glass pan, ceramic dish, or in a dutch oven at about 400 degrees, for about an hour, until the skin is crisp and hot and the meat next to the bone shreds away. I will eat this straight out of the roasting pan with a cold crisp frosty glass of Rose’, a dish of flakey salt at the ready for sprinkling on almost every bite. I’ll be using my fingers and maybe a fork to dig in to this succulent creature. I am sure to be in need of a freshly washed soft absorbent cloth napkin to help mop my sopping fingertips and wipe my dripping lips.
This is how to cook a whole chicken.