Monday, March 26, 2012

Oh, Captain! Bye, Captain!

There are some graphic photos in this post. Please view with discretion. 

We had another first this week. Unfortunately, it was not among those we have gleefully anticipated, but rather, was one that we dreaded: slaughtering our rooster. Around 3 weeks ago, Captain Haddock started developing a nasty habit of attacking his caregivers. At first it was just occasional, but as time went on, he became more and more aggressive. It got so bad that the girls were afraid to go out to the barnyard, and scattering scratch became a nerve-wracking task. At one point, he actually grabbed our 5-year-old's shorts with his beak and proceeded to give her a 6-inch scratch down her leg. On his last day of freedom, I was walking to the coop to check for eggs when he zoomed in at me from behind. When I sought refuge inside the coop, he cornered me there, evidently hoping to peck my eyes out. I grabbed my cell phone from my pocket and called my husband, G-P. "Come save me!" I yelled. "He's gonna kill me!" My generally nonchalant man was there in a flash, waging a dramatic pursuit of my attacker. He soon had him cornered and caged. Captain Haddock had sealed his fate: he was headed for the roasting pan.

A day and half later, we hauled Captain Haddock down to the pasture, and G-P did the dastardly deed. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of the claims he'd been making that "I saw this done all the time back in Nigeria. It's no big deal." But he really did carry out the task like a pro. I was beaming with pride (and relief that I didn't have to do it) as I watched. Now it was my turn. We took the carcass to the kitchen. (My mother later informed me that her mother used to do this part in the yard, gently hinting that I should, too. In hindsight I have to admit that it's probably a better setting.) I dunked him in scalding water and plucked the feathers. LOTS of them. It turns out that our Mr. Big-Britches was mostly feathers.  In fact, he both looked and tasted a lot more like the little chickens I had eaten in rural Haiti than the ones for sale at the grocery store down the street. Of course none of us minded that one bit. The wilder the better is a general rule of thumb at our table. And if that means small and tough, so be it.

The girls, far from being squeamish or upset (as we'd feared they might be), watched attentively as I pulled out the innards and identified for them the liver, stomach, gizzard, heart, intestines, and lungs. We dissected a couple of items and decided to look up more information on chicken anatomy later.

After cleaning the carcass in cool water, we slipped it into the frig until the next day, when I roasted it for dinner. It was amazing: dark, juicy, slightly chewy, and delicious. We feasted, thanking Captain Haddock for the pleasure of his crows the nourishment of his meat. 

Hopefully, we'll find a sane, friendly rooster to take the Captain's place sometime soon. In the meantime, we'll all enjoy going out to the barnyard again without fearing for our safety.

Jennie's Roasted Free-Range Chicken

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan and rub the cavity with a mixture of:
  • olive oil or butter
  • fresh or dried herbs, such as:
    • thyme
    • rosemary
    • oregano
    • parsley
    • basil
  • fresh or granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper.
Place in the cavity:
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a chunk of onion
  • a piece of celery.
Rub the outside of the chicken with more of the olive oil mixture.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes per pound of chicken, or until the meat is at least 165 degrees, drizzling occasionally with more olive oil or butter.


Circle of Days said...

We had the same experience with an unpleasant rooster when I was about ten. I had to hold the rooster, though, while my dad chopped off the head, then it ran around me headless, and bloody. My dad, a non-chef, cooked the rooster (my mom was in the hospital). It was the worst "chicken" -- basically inedible. My dad soldiered through it, while we four kids declined to clean our plates. Glad your roast Haddock was better than ours!

Andrew P. Mills said...

Wow! We have chickens, but only hens. Now I'm even more glad we don't have a rooster! Glad G-P came to your rescue! It looks like quite an amazing little farm you have set up for yourself--well done!