Back in October I began the process of thinning out our roosters. We started with six chickens, but I wasn’t sure it was six hens that we had. Later we discovered it was three cocks and three ladies. Having three roosters and three females is like having, having three ladies, one alpha male and two guys who might be girls or might not. The rooster pecking order subjects all other males to a submissive state, neither female nor male. I think the males sometimes try to sneak a cockadoodledoo in, but otherwise it’s a weird life for them.
I know I’m not making any ground breaking assertion to animal husbandry. My first kill was “Jerry” he had a magnificent crow, it was loud and proud. Jerry would demand dawn long before she was scheduled to arrive. He’d rest his cords awhile and then in the middle of the day he’d let rip with the occasional random cockadoodledoo, his crowing was in all caps.
When I took out Jerry, it was in the cover of darkness, with a shovel turned sideways. I nearly beheaded him with a homerun turning strike that I launched from behind. And then I finished my deed, severing his head with the end of the shovel. I couldn’t imagine eating him though. I felt shame for ending his life. I’ve eaten my fair share of chicken, I’ve had it anyway you can make it, but not the way that starts with you killing one of the all grown up chicks who lived in your backyard.
Tom and Fred were next, in cowardly fashion I hoped that they’d reached puberty with no interest in crowing. Weeks later my theory was wrong. The first wave of tentative cockadoodledoo wafted back around the property. I once again decided to not worry about it, I reasoned that Jerry was just unnaturally loud. You will tell yourself anything to put off more murder. But my killers reluctance drew to an end one Saturday morning and I came to the conclusion that both Fred and Tom would be sent on their way.
I’m not gonna talk about it here, maybe later.
Well, old Fred came out of the freezer last week. He’d been prepped, then brined and wrapped like a prized research specimen. I’d learned the technique for slaughter and dressing from an old farmer, I did not realize there were further refinements in the process pf prepping a rooster. I brined out of instinct. Rooster on a good day, straight from slaughter isn’t good for much; that much I knew. And I was aware the French have specific recipes for the male chicken; it’s called coq au vin. Nigel Slater has a great wit about the event of old chicken cooking, quite a good read.
Oh golly, if only I’d read this recipe. I knew coq au vin, but I really like to understand meat in it's natural capacity, before I recipe it. If I’d had my way I’d have cooked Fred with my broiler recipe, but it was Sunday and Dana bakes on those days, so I instead fired up the charcoal grill. I hate the charcoal grill. And thus Fred was taken into me in much the same brutal spirit that I took him from this world, with respect, but in the end to just serve my base needs to exist, by way of being food for me. Later this week I will cook all the essence out of his bones and then I’ll throw his bones to wild dogs that roam our creek.