Rain! Sun! Repeat. In that order.
There has been some sweet, sweet glorious rain here in Philadelphia. The plants and farmers surely appreciate it. These bouts of cooler, wet weather mixed with the sunny and hot have our stomachs in a frenzy, adapting to whatever the temperature of the house is at the time.
Raising chickens is our thing, and we enjoy the hell out of witnessing the full life cycle. Two years ago when one of our hens went broody, we slipped a few fertilized eggs from Reading Terminal Market’s Fair Food Farmstand, patiently waited and alas, baby easter egger chicks were born. And from babies, to laying eggs, to our soup pot, it is here I appreciate and honor the lives of our beloved farm residents.
So with that I present to you recipes for spring’s unpredictability. First up:
Yard Bird Broth for Cool Rainy Days
We’re lucky (or maybe just crazy) enough to have a garden full of vegetables and herbs, a yard full of chickens and mostly just excess from living in a house full of hungry roommates. This recipe is merely to show off that we can do this all from our means. Feel free to use this as a jumping off point. Our mantra: Do what you can, use what you have. The rest is just a bowl of chicken soup.
What you Need:
1 whole yard bird
4 ribs of celery with leaves, cut into half
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 green onions, scallions, or leeks (whatever’s growing)
1 herb bouquet (I used rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and bay leaves)
1 whole head of garlic, cut lengthwise
Salt and a whole lot of black pepper
1 rind of parmesan cheese
2 quarts of cold water
For the broth:
Put all your vegetable matter, herbs and rind in a large stock pot or dutch oven, skins and all, no need to prepare or heavily process your vegetables. Place your whole yard bird on top of the veggies in the stock pot. Cover with water. Put a lid on it. Simmer for 2 hours or until your house smells like hot chicken. Skim the fat and foam that settles on top if you want. I rarely ever do that with anything, but you can if you need to. Remove the whole chicken and let cool to room temperature.
Strain your broth by placing a cheese cloth over a separate, large heat tolerant vessel, or just use a colander like we do. Pour and separate matter from broth.
Taste the broth and season to your palate. Refrigerate overnight and then freeze for later use or make a soup immediately. For us? I made your standard chicken soup with cous cous for noodles, and shredded kale with some lemon juice. Again, use what you have. Now go sit out on the porch with some company while watching the rain pour as you daydream of warmer days to prepare the following recipe:
Grilled Yard Bird under Bricks for Hot Summer Days
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
Not only do we utilize chicken from our yard, but we also utilize the bricks in which houses were constructed, demolished and then scattered throughout the vacant lots we so bravely grow on. How’s that for full circle? Anyway…
I have since sworn that I will always cook whole chicken split and butterflied. It’s easy to remove the backbone of a chicken with a sharp knife, or a sturdy pair of kitchen shears. Apply pressure down the middle of the breasts until you hear a snap (don’t worry it’s already dead) and this will result in a flatter chicken which lends itself to even cooking.
I also have started to brine my bird beforehand, in a combo of salt, sugar, pepper and soy sauce. I’ve also tried it with milk. This step is optional, but I’ve noticed that the end result comes with the satisfaction of a juicier, more tender bird. For this particular recipe, I use a brush made out of herbs to baste a honey mustard glaze while on the grill:
For the Brine:
1 gallon warm water
3/4 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup soy sauce
For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, dried and split, backbone removed
1 whole herb bouquet, tied with twine (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano)
1 lemon, cut in half
For the Glaze:
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
Couple splashes of soy sauce to thin
Black pepper, paprika, or cayenne or all three
Now do it:
Combine all the ingredients for the brine in a large pot (one big enough to fit the chicken). Heat on medium and stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temperature. Place the backbone-less chicken in brine and let sit anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.
Prepare the grill until the charcoals are glowing and flames have died down.
Pat dry your chicken on both sides until dry and place skin side down on the grill. No need to season as the brine should have permeated flavor throughout the meat of the bird. Place two washed and clean bricks on top to weigh the meat down (I originally put foil to cover the bricks, but Andrew made fun of me and said the raw bricks would look more badass. He was right.). Leave on the grill for 10-15 minutes, paying attention to flame and smoke so that the skin doesn’t burn too much.
Carefully remove the bricks. Combine all the ingredients for your glaze and brush on the inside of the bird. Flip the bird and brush on the rest of glaze. Leave the herb bouquet on top of the bird, skin side up and return the hot bricks to the bird. Cover for an additional 12 minutes or until an instant thermometer reads to the thickest part of the breast at 165 degrees fahrenheit. Let the bird rest for 10 minutes.
Andrew’s family grew up eating meals that revolved around a protein, a starch, a vegetable and a salad. My family grew up eating meals that revolved around a protein, another protein with shrimp paste, another protein marinated with vinegar and a dab of rice. Utensils were often optional. For this recipe, we did a shredded kale salad, grilled garlic scapes and roasted potatoes.
Carve the bird and serve. And taking a cue from my family, your hands are probably the best utensils for this meal.