Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"A wing-away, a wing-away..."

"In the barnyard, the quiet barnyard, the chicken sleeps tonight..."

(I suppose there should be some sort of apology for this to The Tokens...or not.)

We fabricated zee chickins today...lots and lots of zee the past, I have not been too fond of fabricating chickens. (Remember, "fabricating" is Chef-speak for whacking up and/or de-boneing...kinda like "hit" is Mob speak for kill that goombah or something like that...remember-- all we really know about the Mob, we learned on The Sopranos.)

The reasons behind not being fond of fabricating chicken of course lie in the fact that I'd never formally learned how, which resulted in mangling of the chicken, and I'd never really had sharp knives before, which are essential to the job of whacking up chickens. That sharp knife thing really does make the difference. The sharper the knife is, the less force you have to use to cut through something, which in turn gives you a prettier product and keeps you from fabricating your thumb right the hell off your hand.

And, then there's that bits of flesh thing. When you deal with raw chicken, little tiny bits and pieces seem to fall off even though you didn't cut them off. You get gobbets (doesn't that word just make you squeamish just reading it!!!) of chicken flesh everywhere...kinda like a--no, I'm just not going to continue down this path. Suffice it to say, it just squees me out, and I'll leave it at that.

So, we watched a video from the Culinary Institute of America on how to fabricate chickens. We got the lowdown on the 4-6-8-piece fabrication, Frenching of breasts (sounds interesting in a not cooking way), and de-boning a thigh and leg. We came back to class, and since Chef Regional was out today, we got the Head Chef and our Introductory Chef in charge of our class. Head Chef drags out a couple of chickens and does a live demo of the 4-6-8 technique and then moves on to the more interesting cuts.

When you debone a chicken breast, you can have it 3 ways in restaurant lingo: Airline, Supreme, and Frenched. Contrary to what you (or I) might think, "airline" does not mean what they serve on airline dinner plates. It merely means that the wing has been left attached to the deboned breast. The wing has been cut at the first join, which removed the tip and the flat part of the wing, leaving the drummette section behind. Supreme is when you take the ol' airline breast with its attendant wing and cut and scrape the meat of the wing up towards the breast, sort of plumping it up and leaving the bone somewhat exposed.

Frenching takes it one step further, and removes all the meat from the wing, leaving the scraped clean bone behind, sort of like a handle. It looks something like the picture on the right. You can see the roasted bone sort of sticking up and forming a little handle. These are all methods of presentation, and serve to add a little more visual interest and height to the plate. Head Chef also wants you to leave the tenderloin piece on; the exception to this might be to remove it if you were doing banquet service and wanted to sort of even the playing field on the breasts and make sure they were all sort of the same size.

The whole removing and deboning of the breast is the part that I find most difficult. I seem to have no problem with the thighs and legs. I actually really got into the de-boning of the leg and thigh, which would be in preparation for stuffing and roasting. You could then slice is up and fan it for a nice presentation of the meat and stuffing.

The one thing that both chefs were pretty repetitive about was "practice, practice, practice." Whole chickens are fairly inexpensive, and they were very vocal about getting some and practicing. Fabricating a chicken is a very basic culinary skill, and everybody will expect you to be able to do it correctly.

Another little culinary tidbit concerns the "oyster." Yeah, you read that right, and yeah, I know we're discussing chickens, which, when last I checked, in no way resemble an oyster. The "oyster" is a piece of chicken which is oyster-shaped and sits at the top of the muscle of the leg. It's supposed to be the most tender and tastiest piece of the chicken (1 per leg), and some say is the cook's perogative to eat. The French term is sot-l'y-laisse, which translates into "He who is stupid leaves it", because it is somewhat hidden, and you might miss it or might think it is unimportant.

So, I'm going to be watching the grocery store ads for cheap chicks and practice my techniques...ooh, that sounds like bad pickup lines in the making.

Also, would anyone like a wooden spoon-eating poodle? The New Hotness ate both of my wooden spoons this morning before class. I had left them stuck in the roll part of my knife kit to dry, because if you zip them up inside while wet, they can grow mold...ugh! I know, I know, I shouldn't have left the kit within his reach, but honestly! You don't see me gnawing on his toys, especially that goofy red and blue fish, so why does he think he can gnaw on mine? Evil, I'm telling you, they are just pure, leathery winged imp evil!

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