When the headless chicken and I first locked eyes, I thought that there was no way I was going to survive the culinary program. It was only the second week in the kitchen. I knew when I signed up for the program what I was getting myself into. I figured I would be able to handle the dead meat. When the moment actually arrived, I was squeamish and disgusted. The blood dripped off the poor chicken’s dead body. I was so shook up for a second that I couldn’t tell where the legs were and where the wings were. Random thoughts raced through my mind like, “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” Weird, I know.
The funny thing is that I have tried chicken before. Dan even cooks it from time to time at home. We buy the breast or the thigh meat at the big grocery stores where all meat looks the same. Red or white. You can barely tell what it was before it was cut up into small pieces. You don’t know what kind of a life the animal lived, what it thought right before it died, and where it came from. The industrial complex has made life easier and simpler and at the same time removed us from knowing where our food comes from and how it was grown, and processed. Hopefully, I will be more informed as I move along the course. One of the interesting things about Boulder is that it is at the forefront of organic and farm to table movement in the country. There are a lot of restaurants here that source all their produce and meat from the local farms. Some restaurants even have their own farms where they ensure the animals are treated humanely and can run around freely instead of being jammed together in a holding pen. The culinary program has a farm to table component as well which means I will be working on a farm for 3 weeks at the end of my program! I am really excited about it as I will finally learn to grow and harvest veggies the right way after only able to grow three bell peppers, two tomatoes and some herbs the entire summer on our little patio in NJ!
Anyways, back to the headless chicken.
Afraid of touching the chicken remains with my bare hands, I put on the gloves and started working on removing the wings first. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing. The guy next to me smiled and said, “Shru, it’s ok. It is already dead.” I looked around, took a deep breath then…popped the legs out of their sockets and then, slowly after 10 laborious minutes, I took the breasts off the keel bone. It was done and I was exhausted. I felt like I was dissecting it for hours when it was only 20 minutes. I was happy I survived my first dismemberment!
Practising at home: Dead chicken and I are buddies now
Since the first chicken experience and five weeks into the program, I have cut up 3 more chickens, fillet’d two whole fish, cured a big piece of salmon (gravlax), cleaned and cut up beef tenderloin, pork butt, shucked oysters, cleaned mussels and shrimp. I have also cleaned sweetbreads (veal thymus gland). And the good news is that I haven’t passed out yet. I might save that for when I cook snails and frog legs 😉
Showing off my sweetbreads cleaning skills
Don’t these sweetbreads look appetizing…yummy..NOT!
My experiment with beef: Swiss Steak
Chef demonstrating filleting Salmon
My mussels with the fish veloute were a HIT! I know, hard to believe!
Gupta, warning! The Lighthorse Tavern refused to serve the Trouper oysters after an “incident.” Keep up the good work.
Thanks Joe. Got your NY times articles this morning. We shall see how long I survive 😉
Wow! Your food looks delicious! The chicken story is hilarious — never considered that the chicken might be thinking of something when he met his demise! Thanks for the blog! Come soon and cook — although I love your vegetarian cooking! Marme
Thanks, Marme. I miss my vegetarian cooking sometimes ‘cos I am too busy cooking meats!
Well done Shru! 🙂
‘Love it!! Get ready to cook a lot of chicken when i visit Colorado! and you using a smaller knife to ‘dissect’ the chicken? are’nt you supposed to use a bigger one?
I will make you so much chicken, bro that you will get sick of eating it. That is a boning knife by the way.
I will be your taste tester any day!!
Come visit me! Your food looks great too btw 🙂
All of your dishes look amaaaazing, you chicken killer, you! 😉
hahaha..yeah, I am such a murderer! Thank you, Shelley. Hope you guys are settling in well.
Shru!!!!!! come here and make all of this for me!!!!!
2014!!!! No promises but I am thinking about it.
Good to see you enjoying the change in pace! How many pounds have you put on? 😀
Thanks, Andrew. Sadly, I think I am losing weight..we have been cooking meats at school and during our dinner time, I eat my side veggies or salad 🙂 I’ve heard a lot of people who went through the program that said they lost weight. It is strange and hard to believe..
Oh the food looks so good..except for the intensely graphic and bloody pictures of the chicken. I have always been a non-vegetarian but I can never cook meat on which I can see eyes. That totally freaks me out
LOL. Thankfully, there was no head on that chicken body. I wouldn’t have touched that thing!
Although, we did fillet a whole fish (with head, eyes etc)…it wasn’t that bad.
Your food looks amazing! I hope you have a great time on the farms you visit. I hope you’ll be surprised at how much farmers really do care for their animals!
Thank you! I am going to a farm today and really looking forward to it!