Monday, March 15, 2010

Cutting Up A Chicken

It sat on the kitchen counter whole – like a puzzle that had been successfully put together, and now it was my job to dissect the puzzle, piece by piece, with the hope that I could cut and carve the familiar assortment of chicken parts. I set out with kitchen shears and a sharp knife. I must say detaching the leg quarter is a confidence builder. You just have to learn how to find the joints and that becomes your clue as to where to make the cut. You can leave it whole or separate the leg quarter at the joint to double the number of pieces. I left it whole. Removing the wings is the next step and is similar to the leg in that you can separate the drummette from the wing to double that. I left those intact. Then it gets tricky. You can split the breast down the middle from the ribs or from the underneath side, yielding two pieces or four pieces, depending on your skill level. I stayed with two larger pieces.
What prompted all of this is simple – whole chickens were on sale. Plus I had a new recipe that I wanted to try in my cazuela (clay cooking pot) I had impulsively bought in Mexico. I have these wonderful memories of my mother cutting up chickens – it was almost an art form to watch her, deftly and effortlessly, create a meal from a bird she had managed to catch on our farm. Having watched her, I thought I could do it. And I did. After an afternoon of gardening, we sat down to a nicely roasted chicken that had simmered for several hours in garlic, lemon juice, bay leaf, and wine. Tasty.
We surprise ourselves sometimes. We see something – like a chicken on sale - and even though we are standing in the grocery, our minds are somewhere lost in childhood, reliving a cooking lesson. We take our past experiences and combine them with our present needs for food, and with a little dash of creativity and skill we get to work. We offer it to others with the hope that all we have put into the effort is somehow understood. When that happens, magic occurs and there is delicious appreciation.
I guess it really doesn’t matter how you cut up a chicken. Sometimes we focus more on the technique than our willingness to try and our attitude in the process. We become so intent on all the pieces looking just like the book instructs that we forget that we are reliving some wonderful memories that are unique only to us. We become chicken nuggets, all uniform in size and shape, and cannot even distinguish between the white and dark meat. We become bored with daily responsibilities, forgetting that each day God gives us new opportunities for a rich and abundant life that is ours to develop and grow. I think it is called living in the present.
I am going to buy another whole chicken next week and instead of six pieces, I am going to try for twelve. Who knows, maybe I will get out the heavy iron skillet and fry it.