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May 06, 2009

Shooting Birds

This is my first post here at DadCentric and before I just kick the door down and start stomping around, I figured I should say... hi and that my name is Ryan. I maintain things over at my blog Pacing the Panic Room. You can also take a quick look HERE for a little more info about me. There. We are all properly introduced.

So let's get started.

When we offered to pack up the family and drive out to see our Midwife over on the East Coast of Florida and drink in her neck of the woods for an afternoon, my Wife and I thought this would be an awesome way to bond even more with her. After all, this woman is going to be teaching me how to check my wife's vagina so I can report the rate of dilation to her during the start of labor, the least we could do is go and see how she lives her life a little.

When Jason first asked me if I wanted to figure out a way to contribute some photography over here at DadCentric, I honestly couldn't think of anything that would be interesting enough for a first post to get things rolling for him. I have been racking my brain, and finally a couple weeks ago, while my my wife Cole and I were finishing up a visit with our midwife, she asked if we wanted to come out to where she lived to check things out. She had been bragging about a blueberry farm and chicken ranch that she and her partner had been working on for awhile (and immediately the lights were flashing and bells dinging). I would not only get fresh eggs and blueberries out of the deal, but an opportunity to get old school and tap into my manishness and actually slaughter and prepare my own chickens... there it was. My first photo project for DadCentric was born.

I was excited to have this idea for my first post. I figured a post about killing your own food for your family was a good first hello, and there's nothing more Dadly then that.

But I wasn't sure how to bring it all together, until I realized I could take you all on a trip from the slaughter to a delicious dinner. I got it! DadCentric was missing some super manly cooking posts. This blog needed a cooking post! With pictures!

So here we go. Here is dinner... I named the big one Broccoli (they say never to name them.) As in I will be "chopping broccoli." That was awful. I'm rarely funny.

After surveying their property and admiring all the breeds of chickens, I wandered to the very back corner of the lot. I just knew these poor bastards were dinner as soon as I saw them. It was such an odd notion to see your food standing there looking back at you. "Hi, you're protein and you have been delicious my entire life." I have never killed anything before, the exception being some dumb fish I pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico, but nothing on this level. Nothing at all like what I was preparing myself to do. My father grew up on a farm; he was the youngest boy of 3 and this was second nature to him. I on the other hand grew up watching my mother sift thru plastic packages of chicken, trying to figure out which was the best buy and had the least fat. Now here I was getting ready to learn how to turn this clucking friend into food.

Just to the side and out of view from this corner coop was this ominous little piece of turf. I didn't need anyone to tell me what went on here.

When asked how I would like to select which one of my chickens I wanted to prepare first, I just figured, which ever one walks to the door and steps out. There was no panic, or break for it, no escape attempts. As soon as the door opened, a bird stepped out, and put up no fight when picked up and walked over to a chair. The chair was positioned just behind the coop. Here the bird was placed into a lap, on its back, and pet until it was so relaxed it fell into sleep coma. While witnessing this hypnosis by this chicken whisperer, the bird was thanked for the food it was going to give, and no sorries were said, just graciousness and calm soothed over the bird. The feet were bound and secured, so that after the head was severed it could be hung upside down to bleed out. Which only takes a surprising minute.

There was no ringing of the neck, or chopping off the head and watching a bird bounce and throw itself around the yard. Immediately following the hatchet blow, the bird is hung from the hook. From there it is taken to a pot of scolding water at about 170 degrees and dipped in for about a minute and a half. This opens up the pores and loosens all the feathers for plucking.

The plucking is tedious and the most labor intensive. And by far the messiest part. It took about a good 30 minutes to clean two birds.

As soon as they are cleaned, they are put on ice and we finished preparing the other birds. These weighed in at about 5 and a half pounds. They were corn fed, ranged chickens. almost no fat what so ever on these guys. While plucking the chicken I realized for the first time how clean this process was. I immediately felt good about what I was preparing. For my entire life, chicken has been this thing that you purchase in a store in a plastic wrapper. As soon as it is in your home and unwrapped, it is treated like a bio-hazard. Don't let the juice get on anything, scrub your kitchen, wash your hands with hot water, keep it away from everything. Raw chicken makes you sick. It was this slimy wet germ ridden thing. Here I was with this fresh chicken and there was none of that fear.

The next step is to lop off the feet at the joint, and then you can trim up the neck some. I left out the gutting pictures for the sensitive readers, but after you trim the drum sticks, you squeeze out the colon, you cut a triangle into the butt and reach in and pull out the insides. All of the innards on these birds are cooked down and fed to some happy dogs that reside on the property. Next, some final washing and last looks for any missing feathers before storing the bird on ice for transport home.

And there you have it. It took about 2 hours all said to prepare 4 birds. Looks just like it does at the grocery store, don't it? Maybe minus the miserable existence of factory farming. And minus the hormone injections. I won't get into all of that. I have eaten my fair share of chicken buckets with no regrets. So on to dinner.

It was getting late into the afternoon and we didn't want to stop at the store so I decided I would just make do with what we had at home to prepare this guy. There had been an old method of grilling a roaster chicken that I hadn't tried before and figured while I was on a roll I would just go for it. So we decided on Beer Butt Chicken for dinner.

For anyone not familiar, Beer Butt Chicken is a method of grilling your bird with a 16 oz cool can of beer shoved up its ass filled with yummy aromatic goodness. I wasn't exactly sure how to do it, but figured it would be all the better to make it up as I went along. We got the bird ready and washed and all set to cook.

I got the grill going and set it to full heat. Waited for it to hit 400. I rubbed the bird down with coconut oil and added salt and pepper to taste. Cracked open a 16 oz Pabst Blue Ribbon and drank about a 1/4 of it. I took a can opener and got that top off of the beer. Then I Filled the can with fresh crushed garlic, shallots, and lemon, and oiled up the can for insertion into the bird's ass.

The can slides right in, and holds firm. So then I carefully took the bird and placed it onto the grill, using the legs to support the whole thing. Before I closed the lid I sliced up a fresh pineapple and got it grilling with the bird.

Careful closing that lid down on the grill. This was a tight squeeze and I got lucky that it all fit. While I let the bird get cooking I wanted to make a nice Barbecue sauce for basting. I didn't have any sauce so i made my own, which is always better in the end then anything I buy at the store. Except for when I can afford Stubbs. So good. I realized I was out of ketchup for a base, but scored when I remembered our ketchup packet stash. So to the ketchup I added, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, green onions, shallots, worcestershire sauce, cumin, brown sugar, vinegar, and the amazing and magical sriracha sauce (for a little kick).

I started basting the chicken once it was about halfway done. I used a liberal amount and really got the flavor cooked in. This is the finished bird. It looks like it should be reading a newspaper, right?

I let this cook about 2 hours. I prepared roasted corn with this meal, chopped up a watermelon to go with the grilled pineapple, steamed saffron rice and prepared black beans for a side. I took the bird off the fire and chopped it up and laid it out over the beans and rice. A really great filling meal, the chicken was juicy and delicious and worth every bit of fuss.

While we feasted on this dinner, my wife looked over at me, and with a mouth full of food and pride, she said, "I guess I can stop worrying about what we would do if we were ever stranded on an island." Ha! Like they would have a cool Pabst 16 ouncer on an island.

fin



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