Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chicken Dance

We don't watch much TV around here. The only things that we watch reliably are Top Chef and any IronMan that happens to come on. Thank you, Tivo! Anyway, this season on Top Chef, there was a challenge in which the teams competed to see who could complete a food-prep (chopping) series the fastest. The "dream team" folks were handily bested by the underdog scrappers. The challenge included oyster-shucking, onion chopping - 5 lbs and chicken butchering - 5 birds. The underdogs' guy (Howie) had a hard time with the oysters and finished just behind the dreamteam's guy (Brian). Then underdogs' Saira chopped the onions with lightning speed - she made the female favorite (Casey) look dumb. Then, underdogs' Hung (self-proclaimed C.P.A. - certified professional asshole) cut up those chickens like they weren't even made of bones - just like butter. It was beautiful to watch.

I butchered some chicken wings on Sunday and let me tell you - cutting up birds is not like butter. My tricep was so sore that it hurt throughout my swim and I only did 13 wings (that's 39 joint cuts, in case you were counting). The kitchen gods were smiling on me, though, because I didn't cut myself. See, we now own a deep-fryer because Doug has decided that frying is the next culinary mountain he wants to climb. We are slowly learning to use it. And, then, one day we might get to make those fried olives that we had in Venice years ago.

So, my point is that Hung should have won that show based simply on his ability to cut up those chickens. He won anyway, but it's hard to know where to put the knife to cut cleanly though a joint because (1) chicken skin and muscle is not transparent, (2) chicken is slippery, (3) cold chicken makes your hands numb, and (4) you can't be a candy-ass and cut up chickens - it's hard work.

Maybe it's a gross generalization, but I think that if you know your way around a chicken that well, chances are that you are pretty darn good cook. I've read a billion books and articles on how to cut up a chicken or parts of a chicken and I'm a decent cook but those wings were still hard. You don't get good at it without practice, a lot of it.

In other news, I'm still walking - but was able to bike today. : ) Whooo! Thanks Nat for slumming with my slow knee.

Good luck to Nat in her big race this weekend.


Wes said...

frying is the next culinary mountain he wants to climb

Tell Doug he is my idol and my Top Chef! Woo hoo!

Glad to hear the knee is coming along. My Dad backed out this weekend, so I'm negotiating with the Dee Dee for the 10 miler at Chickamauga this weekend. I'm excited! I need a tune up race. She wants me to pace her at the half mary on Thanksgiving.

Take care!!

Charlie said...

I happen to see that daughter likes to watch cooking shows and I was passing by when he was slicing up those chickens and I had to watch...Amazing!

What happened to your knee?...must have missed it in our blogs. Here's wishing you a full and speedy recovery!


Colin said...

You had me at:

"I've read a billion books and articles on how to cut up a chicken or parts of a chicken..."

Dorothy Gould said...

Steph, When we were kids my mother always bought whole chickens and cut them up herself. She had a HUGE cleaver that hung on the very top of the pegboard in the kitchen. She made it look so easy, and the first time I tried I was amazed at how difficult it was. Practice is the key, b/c once you learn where the joints are, it goes much easier. Good luck with the fryer...looking forward to hearing more about Doug and your culinary adventures!

Nat said...

Fryer? I like fried pickles. Never made them but my friend says you use that stuff you use to fry shrimp--maybe that would work for the olives. Or maybe those italian bread crumbs. Whatever. I wanted to be invited over for fry fest to sample.

You do know they sell the chickens already packaged and cut up ;)

Mike Maier said...

Steph- the wing joints are not as easy to find as bigger junctures. If you cut a chicken up every week you will begin to develop muscle memory and not have to push so hard (or use a cleaver like Dottie- bless her). Find the Taoist poem 'Cutting up an Ox'- it always inspired me when butchering. Don't forget to keep the tip of your knife on the board when possible.