Preparing chicken dishes in the 21st century is easy,
Especially with chicken pieces and chicken stock readily available in grocery stores.
So why bother cutting up your own chicken?
Two reasons, according to Paul Bringas, a chef instructor at Joliet Junior College’s culinary arts program.
It’s cheaper to buy an entire chicken and cut it up yourself because you’re not paying for someone else to make the cuts for you.
And you can use the leftover bones to prepare stock that can be used in other recipes, such as chicken soup or chicken pot pie.
A certified executive chef, Bringas was the 2008 chef of the year through the Louis Joliet Chapter of the American Culinary Federation and the chapter president from 2012 to 2014. He is the coach of the JJC hot foods competition team, which won a gold medal at the ACF state competition in 2014 and a silver at the regional level, also in 2014.
Follow these steps
Cutting a chicken is fairly simple once you know the process, he said. Start with a three-pound chicken and a cold pan or pan of ice to keep all the pieces at a safe temperature.
Using a high-quality, sharp knife knife that will cut through bone structure, remove the wing tip from each breast.
Then make a slit along the back to the tail, turn the chicken over and make a cross cut.
To cut up the legs and thighs, turn the chicken over again and make a couple slits up high in the knee cap.
Put your thumbs inside and push to the pelvis until you hear a “pop.” You’ll see the knuckle bone through the skin, making it easy to remove the leg and thigh using the tip of the knife.
Look for fatty line between the leg and thigh pieces and cut through it to separate the leg from the thigh.
Lay the pieces in the cold pan and repeat with the other leg and thigh. You now have four pieces of chicken.
To remove the breast, run the knife along one side of the kiel bone. Using fingers and the tip of the knife, gently remove the breast and wing.
Repeat with the other side and then cut the wings from each breast.
You now have eight pieces of chicken: two thighs, two legs, two breasts, and two wings. Cook them according to your favorite recipe for chicken pieces.
But don’t throw away the rest of the carcass. Use it to make stock.
First trim off some of the skin to keep the stock from becoming too fatty.
With kitchen shears, cut the chicken carcass into large pieces. Not only will it fit in the pot better, cutting the bones will help release the chicken flavor into the stock.
Place the bones into a large pot of cold water.
Then add “mirepoix.” This is a flavor base of cut-up vegetables. Bringas recommends this combination: 50 percent onion, 25 percent carrot and 25 percent celery.
To season the stock, Bringas suggests using a sachet of herbs.
Make your own by filling a small piece of cheesecloth with a bay leaf, one or two peppercorns, fresh parsley stems and a sprig of fresh thyme. Then tie it with a piece of butcher twine and tie it to the side of the pot.
If you don’t have fresh herbs, you may substitute dried ones, Bringas said.
Slowly bring the stock to a simmer and then strain it. Excess stock may be frozen.
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By DENISE M. BARAN–UNLAND