Monday, February 25, 2013

Want Some Feathers With Your Chicken?

The execution of My Mother's Praised Chicken (pg 223 of Nigella Kitchen) turned out to be fraught with drama. Okay, maybe not real drama, but considering that all I expected to do was boil a chicken with some vegetables, Italy threw me a curveball that I did not see coming.

Exhibit A:
Oh. My. God.
I unwrapped my chicken, and almost dropped it on the floor when I saw feathers and scaley ankles. Not to mention the fact that this poor bird looks like it was decapitated by an angry serial killer. I realized (two minutes later) that I was holding my breath and staring at the chicken from across the room. Common sense kicked in, I told myself to stop being an idiot, and started pulling feathers out, chanting all the while, "This chicken was a chicken. Chickens have feathers. This chicken was a chicken. Chickens have scaly feet." Thankfully, the feathers came out without too much trouble (except the ones on the wingtips. I just left them there, for lack of a better idea.)

One thing I noticed about the chickens in the supermarket here, is that the styrofoam tray is totally dry. There's no bloody water trapped in with the chicken. Based on absolutely no research into the matter, I've decided to settle on the explanation for this that I like best--that Italian chickens are not soaked in a vile vat of fetid water, the way American chickens are. (For me, this was the single most disturbing detail of Jonathan Safran Foer's interesting book Eating Animals. I can't buy poultry at home now without checking the package to see what percentage of the weight is from "water" absorption. I just threw up in my mouth.)

Sorry. All that has nothing to do with Nigella's recipe. Really, all you do is break the breastbone of the chicken, brown it, then boil it with some white wine, leeks, carrots, celery, and herbs. For a long time. It boils for 1.5 hours, then sits in the pot, off the heat, for another half hour. That's a long time for a carrot to boil.

The chicken was fine. The meat was tender and the broth tasted good on rice. The vegetables were mush. We ate them, but I'd prefer roasting a chicken and veg any day, for both the flavor it produces, and the time it saves.

Conclusion: Just okay. I won't make this again.


  1. Oh, that feathery, footed, crazy-necked chicken is one of my kitchen nightmares. Bravo to you for tackling that.

  2. I was catching up on your blog and starting to feel hungry....then I came to the chicken. So glad you killed my appetite.

  3. Yep, they usually come with some feathers here too. Sometimes the eggs do too. When I lived in the US I had 1 set of tweezers and they lived in the bathroom. Now I have a second set which lives in the kitchen. But I've also found that the smaller ones tend to burn off in the oven so I only worry about the big ones. And as for the recipe, I think that I even own this book and yet I've still somehow never heard of boiled chicken. Can't say that I need to run out and try it.