Age and Flavour of Chickens: The flesh of young chickens is the most delicate and easily assimilated of bird meats, which makes it especially suitable for invalids and people with weak digestion.
Birds of all sizes may now be obtained all the year round, so that a variety of recipes may be used, according to the bird chosen. The youngest birds may be called Baby Chicks, Spring Chickens or Squabs (French—poussins, petits poulets); these are usually grilled or fried and have a delicate flavour.
The birds likely to be the most popular in the average household are cockerels, roasting chickens and fowls and capons (French—poulets de grain, poulets reine, poulardes, chapons). These may be cooked in a number of ways, two of the most popular being roasting and braising.
Older birds used for boiling may also be an economical purchase for the housewife (French—poules).
To Choose Poultry: As a rule small-boned birds are an economical purchase; they should be plump and not devoid of fat.
Turkeys: These when young have smooth black legs and short spurs. The eyes of a fresh bird are bright and not sunken. Choose one which has a broad, plump breast and white flesh, the best being from seven to nine months old. The flesh of the hen is usually found to be more tender than the cock.
Ducks: When young these usually have yellow feet and bills. The underbill should be so soft that it will bend back easily, and the webbing of the feet should be soft; the breast should be meaty. (French: duck—canard: duckling —caneton.)
Dressing Poultry (see plates 8 and 9)
Plucking: If a strong hook firmly fixed to a wall is available, plucking can be facilitated by tying the two feet of the bird together with strong string, and hanging the bird over the hook. Draw out one wing and pull out the under feathers, taking a few at a time. Work towards the breast and then down to the tail. Repeat on the other side. Small hairs may be singed away with a taper; burnt feathers, however, will impart an unpleasant flavour to the bird.
Drawing: Half-way along the neck, cut a ring round the outer skin and pull or cut off the head. Slip the knife under the skin and cut back towards the body. Holding the neck in a dry cloth, pull the skin loose. At the base of the neck cut through the meat and then, still holding the neck in a dry cloth, twist firmly round until it is detached from the body. (Keep the neck for stock.) Push the index finger into the crop cavity to loosen the crop and gizzard.
Trussing: The object of trussing a bird is to ensure that when cooked it looks attractive. The easiest way to truss is with a needle, similar in size to a packing needle. When the bird is clean lay it down with the breast uppermost and away from you. Thread the needle and pass it through the left leg just above the thigh bone and near to the joint between the thigh and leg bone. (When the leg is folded down against the bird these two bones form a “V” shape with the apex of the “V” pointing towards the front of the bird.) Pass the needle on through the body, out the other side, and through the other leg joint. The legs should be pushed tight against the body during this operation.
Boning poultry and game: Birds are invariably plucked and singed before boning, but not drawn. The crop, however, should be removed, the wings and legs cut off at the first joint, and the tendons of the legs carefully drawn at the same time. To bone the bird, use a small sharp knife, and first remove the merry-thought at the neck. Cut the skin down the centre of the back and raise the flesh carefully on either side, sever the wing joints, and continue to detach the flesh, keeping the blade of the knife close to the bone. When the legs are reached, dislocate the joints, cut the connecting tendons, but leave both wings and legs intact until the breast and backbones have been removed, together with the viscera. Turn the body completely inside out; take the thigh bones of one of the legs in the left hand and strip the flesh downwards. Repeat this until all the small bones are removed. The bird may then be turned right side out again, when it will be found completely boned and should be quite whole.
Jointing poultry: See plate 7.
Roast Duck: Thickened gravy, sage and onion stuffing, apple-cranberry- or orange-sauce, watercress to garnish.
Roast Wild Duck: Port wine-or orange-sauce or orange salad.
Roast Turkey: Thickened gravy, veal or chestnut stuffing, sausage-meat stuffing, bacon rolls, grilled sausages, bread- or cranberry sauce.
(a) Chicken is stuffed at the neck-end, duck and goose are stuffed from the vent-end, turkey is stuffed with veal or chestnut stuffing in the crop and with sausage-meat stuffing in the body.
(b) Chickens and game birds may be roasted for a little while at the beginning of the cooking time, on the breast. This will make the breast-meat more moist. It should not be done with duck or goose. All birds should be roasted on a trivet, not resting in the tin in basting fat.
(c) Sufficient garnish should be served with each dish to provide some with each portion served. When dishes are to be served hot, the garnish must be ready in advance and arranged quickly. If the process takes time, the serving dish may be placed in a shallow tin of hot water to ensure that the food is served very hot.
(d) Frozen chickens or chicken portions can be utilized in many of the following recipes.
(e) The use of metal foils for cooking can be recommended (1) to ensure a tight-fitting lid when stewing or braising, (2) to wrap birds during roasting when a covered roaster is not available or proves too small. Before cooking is completed the foil should be turned back from the breast and legs of the bird to allow the skin to become crisp and brown.
(f) If a good stock is not available it may be produced quickly by using one of the reliable makes of consommé soup-mix now on the market.
(g) When the method of cooking is in a casserole or by stewing, some dry cider or dry wine may be substituted for some of the stock.