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Chicken – Not Just for Sunday Dinner

April 25, 2012

A couple of generations ago chicken was something for Sunday dinner. If someone commented they had chicken every Sunday they were rather well off.

The type of chicken you’d have would vary – broilers and fryers (those excess roosters) would be spring or summer fare. In summer those fryers would be heavier and by fall there’s roasting hens or stew chickens. Much like other farming enterprises, there was a seasonal eating.

Modern farming has changed how farmers can grow birds, expanding the season to a controlled climate, year round production. Today you can have fried chicken at a host of fast food places, many that specialize just in chicken. The “specialness” of chicken dinner on Sundays has been lost, and many today take it for granted chicken is a standard choice.

Today you can get fryers cut up, precooked, frozen and fresh. You can get deboned chicken meat canned or fresh, getting just boneless skinless chicken breasts that many say is the ‘best’ (and most expensive) cut. There are fewer capons for sale, and people think Cornish hens are artificially altered, but it’s likely most wouldn’t know what to do with a stewing hen anymore.

Stewing hens are the older birds, leaner and too ‘dry’ to fry. If you buy direct, either from us or from a small farmer in your area, or perhaps you have a bird that was injured and was killed to prevent suffering, you may be faced with having that stewing hen. Here’s one way to fix it.

Chicken Tetrazzini

4-6 pound stewing chicken

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced onion

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

dash of cayenne pepper

1 cup sliced mushroom stems and pieces

1 egg, beaten until lemon yellow

1/4 cup half and half cream

8 ounce package fine egg noodles

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Cut the chicken into serving sized pieces and put in a kettle with celery, adding just enough water to barely cover. Cook, covered, for 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces the thickest part of the bird. Drain  off and strain the broth, putting it in the refrigerator to solidify the fat (which is then removed).

Cut the skin and bones from the meat and cut the meat into bite sized pieces. Skim from the broth two tablespoons of chicken fat and put in the top of a double boiler, stirring in flour then adding the cayenne. Add a cup of broth and cook until thickened. Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat until just brown. Mix egg and cream together, then stir two tablespoons of the thickened sauce into the mixture. Add egg and cream to the thickened sauce, stirring well and cook for 5 minutes more. Add mushrooms and chicken meat to the thickened sauce, reduce heat to low to keep it warm.

Cook egg noodles in remaining chicken broth, adding water if necessary to get as much liquid as needed. Place cooked drained noodles in shallow buttered baking dish, then pour chicken and mushroom mix over the noodles. Sprinkle with cheese, put in broiler to just brown the cheese.

Heavenly and all from scratch.

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