Sunday, December 20, 2009

Revenge Of The Roosters!

Yeah. I kinda thought this might happen.

One of the problems with free-range chicken is that sometimes it can be a mite too free range. It's like the difference between a fit, healthy jogger and an Olympic marathon specialist, y'know? All that butchery yesterday... I took a good, long look at the carcasses in question, and thought: I'm going to slow-cook these bastards. Very carefully.

This I did. And might I say the flavour was astonishing. I jointed the critters, dredged 'em in flour, salt and pepper, and browned 'em in butter. Then I put 'em into a big casserole dish along with onions, mushrooms, garlic, heaps of tarragon, about a litre of chopped roma tomatoes, a cup of white wine and enough stock to bring it up to the level I wanted. The whole schmeer went into the oven at 140C for about three hours.

Meanwhile, I put together a green salad. Sliced up some potatoes, fried 'em with chopped green onions and more tarragon and pepper. And every now and again, I turned the bits of chicken to ensure they cooked nicely.

At the time of serving, I poked the chicken with a knife and fork, and I admit I was slightly dismayed. But I soldiered on, loaded up the kids' plates, and we settled in for a meal.

Elder Son was the first one to crack. He chawed at his drumstick/thigh combination, then paused and looked at it closely. Then he looked at me. Then he grabbed his knife and kind of stabbed it, but nothing much happened.

"I can't eat this," he opined. "This chicken is too tough!"

What I refrained from saying was the truth: that if this chicken had met James Cameron at the right time, Arnold Schwarzenegger's film career would have died in the ass, and the Terminator series would have been made about mutant farm-fowls from the future, not some pansy-ass goddam robot. No... what I actually said was this:

"Come on, boy! We're human beings. Homo sapiens! Your hunter-gather ancestors would have killed for a meal like this! They would have wept over the exquisite flavours, and raised the mighty hunter upon their shoulders in celebration!"

He looked at me again, and had another go.

Meanwhile, Younger Son had put his drumstick/thigh chunk down, and was giving it a very piercing look. I, on the other hand, had the upper half of the bird -- sans wings, which were on the Mau-Mau's plate -- and was busy separating the flight muscles from the breastbone with much growling and gnashing of teeth.

Younger Son looked at me. I growled some more. Then I said: "Dammit, boy! We're at the top of the food chain! We are the uberpredators! Are we going to let ourselves be beaten by a mere chicken? Will we flee the table, admitting that a simple barnyard bird is tougher than we are?"

His eyes narrowed. He raised his chunk of chicken in both hands, lunged forward, and snapped. I saw the tendons in his neck stand out, the muscles at his jaw knot. He growled, and whipped his head back and forth like a savage wolf, and tore a chunk of dark, dark flesh away from the bone.

The Mau-Mau didn't even try. She just licked all the tarragon and tomato off the outside of her chicken wings, ate her salad and potatoes, and demanded custard.

When Natalie came home, the kids were in the bath. I had defeated the upper half the bird by dint of age, experience, bloody-mindedness and the fact that it actually tasted fucking brilliant. Younger Son had dealt with most of a thigh and a significant portion of drumstick, but the sheer bloodlust in his eyes and the vicious growling noises were making me a little nervous, so I let him call it quits. Elder son bent a knife and a fork, and managed a bite of the drumstick.

I stuck some sausages in the lovely casseroly stuff, and whacked it back in the oven. Natalie duly tried the chicken and discovered for herself that it could have gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson, and still been able to bite the bastard's ear off later. But the casseroled sausages went down really well...

... so.

I'm guessing that future roosters from that particular source will be used for the making of stock. And given the flavour of the birds, I think they'll do an excellent job. But there's no way I'm trying anything else with the bastards. There's Sylvester-Stallone-Rambo tough. There's Clint-Eastwood-Dirty-Harry-Tough. There's Jason-Statham-Chev-Chelios-tough.

And then there's free-range, Killer Commando Chicken tough.

Why Is Science So Lame?

Seriously. I mean, scientists are forever dicking around trying to cure malaria or unravel the genome to cancer, or maybe build shinier solar stuff, when what the world really needs is completely something else.

Non-fartogenic beer. That's a good example, right there. Who's out there, researching day and night to save us all from stinking great eye-watering, ass-burning beer farts? Nobody, that's who. But if you turned up tomorrow with fart-proof beer that tasted great and got you drunk just as fast -- dude, they wouldn't be able to get your name on the Nobel scrolls fast enough.

But that's not what I'm really talking about right now. Fart-proof beer isn't a bad idea, but what the world really, really needs is a self-disassembling chicken. Absolutely.

See, today we had some visitors. Actually, we had a couple today, and one leftover from the night before . That was Miss M the Student Dietician who turned up last night for Thai fish stew, and crepes with home-made vanilla ice-cream and garden-fresh raspberries. She stuck around to watch Igor up in the Cinema Zone with Clan Flinthart, plus a whole lot of popcorn and a large pitcher of that gin and curacao stuff... made for a good evening all around.

So Miss M and Nat and the kids were all hitting the blueberry pancakes this morning when our other visitors arrived -- a couple of local folk, who brought with them a pair of goddam roosters. Why? Because the local folk in question, who are perfectly lovely people in their own right, are animal softies. They rescue 'em. And keep 'em. And look after 'em.

And they aren't much chop when it comes to going the chop-chop with the excess of roosterage.

Enter Mr Flinthart and his Cleaver of Chicken Slaughteration.

Once the visitors toddled off, I felt I could go about Silencing the Roosters without alarming anyone unduly. So I seized the cleaver in question, opened the travel cage, and pulled out one of the big, white chooky bastards.

Cranky bloody thing it was, too. Lots of blurrrking and borrking, and attempts to gouge yours truly with the impressively large and sharp spurs on the back of the feet. Nasty. No wonder the lovely visitor-folks wanted rid of the damned things...

So I took Rooster One out to the wood-chop zone, and laid its head on the block. And who should come bolting around the corner but Younger Son, eh? Mightily excited, he is. Apparently some banana-brain has told him that chooks run around after you cut their heads off, and he is truly desperate to see...


No, I'm not gonna consult with Natalie, I figure. The Younger Son needs to understand how this stuff works if he's going to eat meat. I'm no vegetarian, as you all know -- but I don't have much time for people who will eat meat, but can't face the ugly facts behind that delicious, tasty meal. If you can't bring yourself to kill and clean the meat for your table, sez I, stick to the greenery. And no: I've never slaughtered a cow. But the odd lamb, occasional goat kid, and wallaby? Yep. Without blinking.

So I shrugged, and brought down the cleaver - which is fiendish sharp, oh yes - and Rooster One loses its Command and Control module. The head sits there on the chopping block, blinking and opening its beak remarkably like unto a chicken too stupid to know that it's dead, while the body leaps about, flapping and spraying blood, and Younger Son stares in fascinated horror...

I don't think he's going to have nightmares. But just to help him along, I made him put the head into the compost heap. And then, after I plunged Rooster One into a pot of boiling water to loosen the feathers, I left Younger Son hard-a-pluck, and introduced Rooster Two to a chunk of century-old hand-crafted German steel.

And there was much plucking, and stench of wet feathers, and then there was gutting and there was blood and me with my hand deep in a dead chicken's body cavity, grouting around for the little fraggy bits that you can never quite get loose. And at some point or another, Elder Son came out just as Younger Son discovered that you can squeeze a dead chicken and activate its voicebox, so there was macabre Zombie Chicken noise happening. And Elder Son wanted to know what was going on, so I called him over to help hold the remaining unviolated chicken corpse, and just as he was about to reach for it I gave it a squeeze and it went "blu-urrk!" in a convincingly chickenlike fashion and he jumped about a metre and a half and Younger Son fell about the place laughing, getting blood and feathers all over himself, and earning me the Wrath of Natalie who was Not At All Amused by Zombie Chicken antics.

Now both plucked, cleaned corpses are reposing quietly in the bottom of my refrigerator. Tomorrow I will joint them, season them, and slow bake them until they're crispy golden brown, to be served with new potatoes and garden salad and maybe a nice dry white wine... but nevertheless, it was still a horrid, ugly, stinky, feathery sort of job. And what I really want for Christmas, dear Science, is a chicken that will kill itself. And then shed all its feathers in a single fluffy cloud. And then fall apart into nice, neatly sectioned joints, with the giblets in a pile of ugly in the centre, ready to be properly disposed of.

Is that too much to ask, O Mighty Geneticists? Or are you too busy diddling around with second-rate shit like AIDS, Swine Flu, and a cure for Stephen Conroy?

... actually, I have to admit that I'd be prepared to accept a cure for Stephen Conroy. That would be cool too.