04 October 2012

The Rooster's Last Crow

We never intended to have a rooster.   In our order to the hatchery, we requested fifty Cornish Cross meat birds and fifteen heritage laying hens.  As they grew, one bird didn't clearly fall into either category: it was white, like a Cornish Cross, but small, like a heritage breed.  We would have assumed it was a runt, but its blue legs and only fourteen other identified hens indicated heritage lineage.  Time went on and the Cornish Cross all grew to proper slaughter weight.  We processed them and what appeared to remain were fifteen colorful hens scratching and pecking in an ample chicken run.  Then the mystery bird began to crow and his sex was no longer a mystery. 
We deliberated for several months as to whether we should keep him.  His crow was incredibly charming and, at first, so was his machismo.  He would stand at the top of the ramp to the coop and proudly flap his wings and call his ladies.  Then his, let's say charisma, got out of hand.  On several occasions I witnessed acts in that coop that I didn't feel I was yet old enough to see.  He was a strict rooster, and he punished my darling hens.  We were harboring our own poultry version of Fifty Shades of Grey in the backyard.


Then, he started to think Vivienne and I were also part of the flock.  He tried punishing us too.  He went after Viv on several occasions.  He earned a watererer to the side of the head one day when he attempted to spur me.  This was becoming a lot of drama for eggs.  Oh yes, and he was obviously going to fertilize my eggs.  I'm not squeamish, but finding blood in my eggs will definitely put omelet production to a temporary halt.  He had to go.  Needless to say, he wasn't happy about it.  Really, he was getting exactly what any guy banging fourteen chicks at the same time deserves.
Before one slaughters a rooster, one must catch him first.  Cue the Rocky theme.

 That was one nimble rooster.  Nick finally cornered him inside the coop.

A few last words of thanks:


And it's time.

It was a swift death.

One might think this is the end of the rooster tale, but the slaughter is the very beginning of turning a rooster into dinner.  There's the scalding, the defeathering, and the cleaning of the bird.   It's quite glamorous:

I decided to make the traditional French dish, coq au vin, literally translated as rooster in wine.  Typical meat birds are slaughtered at about six weeks of age because the meat is tender and mild.  This rooster was almost six months old.  The meat was tough, dark, and very fragrant.  French peasants created coq au vin particularly to make good use of an aged rooster.  First I had to break him down, which still takes me twice the time I expect.  Note the color of the meat along the backbone and breastbone in the upper right corner--much darker than standard chicken.

I used Molly Stevens coq au vin recipe, which is featured here with step-by-step photos.   I wish I had better photos of the final product, but by the time we sat to eat it,  we were two bottles into the night.  Here's what I managed to capture:

And luckily, our guests took a plated shot.  Please pardon the haphazard (read: tipsy) presentation.

Neither do the dish justice.  In my opinion though, no photo could.  I don't believe a more delicious entree has ever graced my dining room table.  Thank you, rooster aka Russell Crowey aka Roosty Rooster aka coq au vin.  Merci beaucoup.

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