Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Which I Dismember a Chicken and Do Not Die

No, not one of our beloved pets, of course. But STILL.

So, I volunteered to make a dinner for a mom from our homeschool co-op who had emergency surgery. Here's the catch: Their family does not eat dairy. My family (read: I) does not eat gluten -- I don't make separate dinners for myself and my family. Here's the other catch: This friend? Is? A CHEF.

Awash in a wave of paranoia, I could not think of a single transportable meal to cook. Therefore, I did what any self-respecting person would do and posted a desperate status update on Facebook. Within minutes, I was informed that I should be making Chicken Marbella, from the Silver Palate cookbook. (Personal Note: If I were marooned on a desert island and could only have three cookbooks with me, my Silver Palate would be among them. It's that crucial to my survival.)

Armed with a couple of hormone-free broiler hens from Costco, I checked my directions this morning and found that I was supposed to have marinated them overnight. Yay me. But here's the kicker: I had to quarter them first.

I quailed. Please! Give me dental surgery! Give me waiting in line at Sea World! Give me walking barefoot a public pool in puddles of warm, slightly slimy water! Just ... not ... the quartering of a poultry carcass.

Normally I foist this job onto the Professor, in fact I'm pretty sure that figured somewhere in our wedding vows, but he had the gall to go to work and abandon me to my own devices. It's just me versus the bird. Again to the Internet I go. VideoJug offers an instructive video in which the cook neatly, tidily, renders the chicken into six perfect, juiceless parts. And talks about popping joints. Deep breath. I can do this.

So there I am, in my kitchen, averting my eyes from the view of the yard, where our five cheerful hens are innocently strutting around eating mosquito eggs and earning their rent. Do not look at the chickens outside. Do NOT. 

And as I attack the bird, I discover that the VideoJug chef was using a super-awesome, super-sharp knife, while I am using a knife that was awesome and sharp in its glory days. My friends, I am here to tell you, this makes a difference.

Also, nowhere in the VideoJug feature did I see a four year old helper uttering the following sampling of helpful phrases every few seconds:

"Mom. That is DISGUSTO. I am leaving the room." [Oh that this would actually occur!]

"Ew. Do you know how gross that looks? What is the skin for? Is that fat, Mom? Is it? Why don't you eat it? What do you mean it's not good for your heart? What would happen to your heart if you ate it?"

"Mom, Bear Grylls ate a DEAD SHEEP once." [Terrific, honey. Could you get him on speed dial for me?]

As I saw away, mimicking the VideoJug chef's work in the way that a pigeon resembles a peacock, I consider profanity, but God and the four year old being on the premises, I resort instead to creative visualization and yoga breathing. I picture the friendly smile of the mom for whom I am cooking. I do not picture her wearing her chef's hat. I picture the sailing excursion the Professor and I took years ago in Hawaii. I do not picture my sunburned toes.

Of course, every two minutes I have to scrub my hands in hot water and soap to go consult VideoJug again. Turns out, when your mind is in Hawaii, it's not really retaining much information that's actually relevant to your current situation. 

Half an hour later, I have two fully quartered chickens happily marinating away in a delightful sauce. I have a clean, sanitized countertop. I have broth simmering on the stove, fragrant with bay leaves and elephant garlic. The house smells almost heartbreakingly wonderful. To all appearances, it's been a June Cleaver kind of morning.

Oh, how deceiving appearances can be.


Inez Yarborough said...

Hannah,I loved your blog. I am scheduled to bring a meal to the same chef next week, and I am totally intimidated. I plan to do take out, but I am a wimp. So I am really impressed that you accepted this challenge. Also, back in 1977, I had to dismember a chicken for a family dinner. The experience was so intense that it turned me into a vegetarian. I'm still a vegetarian, 33 years later.

nicole said...

oh my gosh you are my HERO! i'm so impressed. and this is definitely one of my favorite-ever posts of yours!! (esp the Bear Grylls reference. literally laughed out loud)! :D

Raji P. said...

ROTFLMykwO!!!!!! Hilarious! Congratulations, Julia.

Tim said...

What a hoot! I'm so proud of you.
-The Prof.

cjoy said...

You so precisely explained why I buy my chicken PRE-dismembered. Especially after I had to dissect raw chicken parts in the 7th grade. (I refused to eat chicken for dinner that night...bad timing, mom.)

As for taking the time to prepare a meal with her dairy free are MY hero. I hope I never need meals brought in (SO not thinking about baby #4), b/c we're waaaaay too complex for it to be a simple "Can I bring a meal?" Your friend must treasure you for going the extra mile to figure out a safe meal for her and her family.

Stephanie said...

Wow. And to think I was complaining about peeling and slicing tiny Texas cling peaches the other day.

The upside about having to dismember a chicken with the 4-year-old's running commentary is that you had great writing material.

Anne J said...

It seems that Bear Grylls' name comes up every day in my house for something he has done that somehow relates to the situation at hand....I never see the connection but I just thought I would let you know....Good Job on the chicken!

Kelly said...

Wow. I am so impressed both by your determination and resourcefulness and by that gorgeous looking brine/marinade.

Bear Creek Mama said...

I'm not sure I will be able to stop laughing any time soon.....I think cutting, deboning, preparing in any manner raw chicken is THE most disgusting part of being a "mom in the kitchen". I'm not sure my future experiences will ever be the same!
btw - that pot looks amazingly tasty - once cooked, of course:)

Julie said...

I think it looks like you did a beautiful job, I would not like to have to attempt this myself! I'm sure your friend the chef will appreciate this very much:)

Galex said...

Huh. Last time I dealt with a chicken carcass, which I did calmly and reverently, it turned into a lovely impromptu anatomy lesson for Madeleine, who had a fabulous time picking it up by the drumsticks, stretching out the wings, looking at the spine and ribs, and asking plenty of wonderful anatomical questions. (I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging; I'm just so tickled that I've got ONE thing on you!) Ginny 1 / Hannah 2,346,788. But who's keeping score? ;)

Amy Tague said...