Thursday, August 1, 2013

Don't Fear the Chicken Bits! Plus Potato, Fennel, Chicken Soup.

Months ago 2 Facebook friends "unfriended" me over posting a photo of some chicken heads I added to my chicken stock.  Last week a New Seasons employee scoffed at my inquiry about the selling of chicken feet.  Needless to say not all people fear chicken bits, but some are weirded out or downright offended by them.  Honestly the first time I bought a bag of chicken heads from one of my favorite meat suppliers I felt a tad nervous but once I made soup with them...I felt only gratitude.

My main go to book for nutrient dense recipes is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  It was with this book that I began to heal my autoimmune diseases and become strong enough to farm.  Bone broth has been considered a key food in a nourished diet by those in the Weston Price movement for many years but only lately are more people getting into nutrition density thanks to Paleo diet enthusiasts.  Let me say that I don't ascribe to any particular diet program.  I have taken my food clues from the book mentioned above and the Body Ecology Diet, but I'm terrible at being a joiner so I only take what I like from those books.    

Anywho after I got comfortable with making beef stocks, I "graduated" to chicken.  One of the first things I researched was the use of the whole chicken, so-called scary bits and all.  Nourishing Traditions notes that:

"Jewish folklore considered the addition of chicken feet the secret to successful broth." -Page 124

On the site Nourished Kitchen is a lovely & brief treatise on the use of feet & heads. It's also great to throw any giblets  in the stock too.  I can emphatically say that adding these bits gives the end result of any soup made with the stock a depth of flavor you cannot get with store bought broth.  The heads add flavor while the feet add gelatin.  This gelatin is especially good for those with stomach issues and inflammation issues like arthritis.  Some like to say that you know you've made your chicken soup right if it's all gelatinous when refrigerated.  The same is true for beef soup/broth.

Many years ago I was a vegetarian for 6 years.  It started with a chicken I was roasting.  I looked at this dead chicken and felt near heartbreak for it.  It seems I knew instinctively it's life had little value while it was alive.  This may sound wacky but I picked up that chicken & really studied it & began to cry.  I felt it was unfair to treat animals so cruelly and stayed away from meat for a long time.

What I understand now is that eating meat is not the problem.  In fact a truly holistic farm will have animals on their site (of course that doesn't always mean their consumed).  The real issue stems from how we raise, slaughter, and mis-eat these creatures.  There is such a thing as meaningful consumption and by eating the bits we are honoring all of the chicken (or animal) and utilizing its life force for healing.  When we say "thank you" to our food we recognize this creature whether animal, vegetable or grain, has been cut from its source of life and has allowed us to enjoy and be nurtured by it.  Though I personally don't consume animals raised in CAFO's, it is worth taking the time if one does to still whisper "thanks."

It is okay to be a little squeamish when first stirring stock and find that a chicken appears to be looking back at you.  The other day I found a beak in the stock I was straining and contemplated the fact that I was to soon put in my mouth what had once been in his.  After a time, squeamishness leads to practicality which leads to a sense of pride in using every part of this wonderful bird.  Instead of just praying over food, cooking in and of itself becomes an act of prayer or reverence, and that means a lot to me.

Potato, Fennel, Chicken Soup (adapted from the New York Times)



Needed:

Large stockpot
Immersion blender or hand crank blender
cheesecloth and/or kitchen string

Recipe:

2 quarts (8 cups) homemade chicken stock.
3 fennel bulbs trimmed and chopped
1 pound yukon or russet or purple potatoes chopped
1 medium to large onion chopped
6 cloves garlic diced
2 stalks celery diced
salt (mineral or kosher) & pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
A small sachet made of cheesecloth & held together by kitchen string containing fresh sage leaves, fresh  parsley, a bay leaf and about 10 peppercorns.
2 cups cooked & diced chicken meat
Fennel fronds or slices of fried garlic for topping
Olive oil for sauteing

Saute onion, fennel, and celery in olive oil over medium until vegetables are limp.  Add sachet, garlic, potatoes, and stock and salt.  Bring ingredients to boil then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove sachet and add thyme and aminos.  Use immersion blender or remove soup in batches and use hand crank blender.  After soup is blended add chicken meat then taste and salt & pepper to liking.  Top in bowls with fennel fronds, friend garlic or both.

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