Verslag van een (Engelstalige) cursist
Today we had our second cooking class and the topic was how to prepare chicken, how to recognise a good chicken and how to cut it. Most people -including myself- only ever buy the chickenfilet you can find in supermarkets; easy to prepare and you don’t need to think about it. I do tend to buy biological food if I have the chance, but as I said earlier the variety you can find in Almere is really limited regarding organic or biological food.
But anyway, Rob explained to us the difference between a factory farmed chicken (apparently 28 chickens are raised on 1 square meter, meaning they cannot stand or walk. The chickens therefore do not have very long legs), EKO chickens (which do have room to walk around so the meat is a little more reddish) plus the chicken itself is slightly older and therefore bigger and has longer legs. A guinea fowl, another chicken of which I can’t fully remember what it was called being the Rolls Royce among the chickens is also sold with the insides still in there and the head attached. You can easily identify that one from the photo above.
The first thing we had to do was to prepare a quail each. Remove 2/3 of the wings, remove the legs (and keep separate), remove the spine and when done properly you end up with a little carcass that supports itself. Then to be left on the tray for further preparation later on, while we continued to prepare the chicken legs. From a regular cheap chicken we had to remove the hipbone and the upper leg bone and cut the flesh loose around the lower leg but keep the last bone in. This was then filled with the filling we made ourself first, wrapped in a lard net which you can see on the photo where I am doing it. It basically prevents the chicken from bursting open if you bake it in a hot oven. That means that your filling can be a bit more fluid although you can also wrap it tightly with a piece of string if you prefer. The fat in the membrane shrinks around the chicken making a tight wrapping sort of… Not sure if I explain this right, but that is more or less what happens.
Now once that was done we prepared the quail legs and bodies in a pan for further use and in the meantime the next task (after making the filling for the legs) was to prepare some of the whole chickens. The cheap chickens you can spice up by rubbing any nice seasoning under the skin before you put it in the oven, the quality chickens have more flavor anyway so those you can prepare in various ways. Tom seasoned one of the chickens with salt and pepper only (I think the Eko chicken) and once it came out of the oven it was just simply delicious! So much flavor and so different from a chicken from the supermarket. Now the photo of Tom with his hand in the chicken’s butt…haha.., I just had to laugh out loud when I downloaded the photos on my computer. he really looks like he is enjoying himself right? 🙂
All of the meat (with the exception of the quail legs which were put into a pan with some broth to cook for a while until the liquid thickened to make a nice sauce) was put in the oven and in the meantime we had to show Rob how we made an omelette…. Not hard to guess that we didn’t do a very good job in making a proper french omelette, still soft and moist on the inside but with that lovely ‘eggy’ taste. I think we all more or less made the same mistakes, but Rob showed us how to do it the proper way so going onwards.., on March 14th, 2009 Cooking class lesson 2: we’ll all be making chicken lovely fluffy eggs..:) It’s a pity I have to work tomorrow morning, otherwise I am sure I would have given it a try..
We were also shown some good old fashioned vegetables that have slowly become fashionable here lately such as parsnips, parsley root, pumpkins and a few others (OK, I admit I forgot their names completely… even in Dutch!)
I had never eaten parsnips before and the’re slightly sweet or at least sweeter then a regular carrot, but I think they could be a nice vegetable if I can come up with a good way to prepare them… Tips and suggestions are of course welcome!
In the meantime the chickens were ready and Rob showed us how you cut a grilled chicken into various parts such as the breast, legs & wings and then remove the spine. Tom was brave enough to cut a chicken himself and while it looks so easy when Rob does it.., it turned out to be more difficult then he had though it would be. So he did two…:)
As I said; huge differences in tastes between the various chickens, so it was good to be able to taste and see the differences at the same time. The leftovers were wrapped up for the students to be taken home including some broth so we can prepare our own sauces and enjoy the chickens.
Overall it was a great learning experience again and Tom and I have already discussed to try and pay more attention to the quality of the produce, visit more markets and to be more aware of what it is you’re actually eating.
Next week the topic will be meat, and to be honest, I’m glad we’ll not be dissecting an entire cow…:)