Rainy Days and Mondays…

…make really good domestic project days.

With all the wet weather lately, I’ve been working on projects around the house.  Today was perfect for it–raining steadily all day and perfect for firing up the oven and getting the house perfumed with baking bread and roasting chicken.

I am just about out of bread and thinking I need to get in touch with Red Wagon to get some more.  But that won’t come until Thursday!  The issue I’ve found with the artisan breads is that we either a) eat them all up in one or two days, or b) lose track of the need to eat them in one or two days and end up with a very hard loaf on our hands.

But hard loaves are good loaves for other uses besides sandwiches–like croutons or melba toast or breadcrumbs.

These sourdough rye breadcrumbs (broken up in the food processor) will be awesome for topping or mixing with just about anything.  A little time on top of the fridge should get them dry enough to store.

After the breadcrumbs, I wiped out the food processor for the next project, reducing last year’s dried cayenne peppers into flakes.  I thought it’d make better sense to do them second instead of risking very spicy breadcrumbs (which H and I might enjoy, but a certain seven-year-old would not).

These are also going up on top of the fridge for a little further dessication, so they’ll store nicely in their jar on the herb and spice shelf.

I shook out quite a few of the seeds into the compost–there’s still plenty in there, but what I like is the pretty red flakes.  I don’t save the seeds for planting because they’ve more than likely cross-pollinated with other peppers in the field.

While those projects were underway, I had a bowl of focaccia dough rising on the counter, made with Wheat Montana all-purpose and K&P (South Dakota) whole wheat flour.  I’ve recently learned some of the wheat in Wheat Montana flour is actually produced locally, so maybe I can claim that as local, too.  It’s certainly wonderful flour.

I added a few minced onions, a half basil cube, and some of the last of my previous batch of red pepper flakes to the bread.  The base liquid is a bottle of Bud Light Golden Wheat that mysteriously made its way into my fridge and has been sitting there for who-knows-how-long.

Waste not, want not–as somewhat of a beer snob, I decided it’d go down easier in the bread than in a glass.  I know they say if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t cook with it, but the bread tastes pretty good to me.

Once the bread was out of the oven, I could put the chicken in that’d been thawing in the sink this morning.  This is the second-to-last chicken we got last fall as part of a share raised on one of H’s places.

I’ve heard and read that you should never roast a bird below 350 degrees.  I think that’s hooey.  With an older, lean free-range bird like this one, there’s no way you’ll get anything but a tough stringy meal out of that temperature.

After trying to roast them in my crockpot on low and still having them come out tough, I’ve started tucking them breast side down in a crock, tenting them with aluminum foil (and leaving side openings) and roasting them very low (225 degrees) for a few hours (like four or five).

The result is a bird that falls apart in a juicy pile of goodness. The meat simply falls off the bones, which can conveniently be pulled out of the crock and dumped in the stockpot with a little vinegar, plus water to cover, and set to simmer down for mineral-rich bone broth.

There’s usually some fat in the bottom of the crock that can be saved for other uses, too.

Would I try this with a supermarket chicken?  No way. Recent studies have shown that most non-organic supermarket chickens are tainted with salmonella or campylobacter–or both.  About half of the organic supermarket chickens tested positive for campylobacter, but none had salmonella.

You’d run the risk of cultivating rather than killing those pathogens with such a low temperature roast.  I do it with chickens from a source I know is clean and safe–and even then I take responsibility for my own cooking practices.  So please don’t think I am recommending this for anyone who doesn’t do the same.

But then, most supermarket chickens don’t have to be cooked this way to be tender–they’ve never developed much muscle in their caged or pseudo-free-range state (where they have “access” to the outside, but never actually go outside).

Usually I don’t even do much prep work with the chicken–I don’t stuff it (and at this low roasting temperature, I wouldn’t)–I just rub it down inside and out with a blend of herbs or whatever seems good at the time (today was a dollop of my homemade bouillon) and put it in the oven.

Ready for its foil tent!

Along about the time H gets here this evening, it should be ready to eat–along with whatever veggies I throw on (I’m thinking some of the broccoli I froze last summer) and the focaccia bread.  The leftover meat will make a nice salad or sandwiches tomorrow–or maybe even used in some chicken gravy for supper.

The stock will go in the fridge for whenever I get the urge to make soup–or if someone gets a sniffle from the chilly, rainy days.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amanda Svec on April 27, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Can I learn how to make homemade bullion? You are a fabulous writer-I wish you could move to Toronto….;)

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on April 27, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Yes, you can! I have a blog post on the subject here.

    I wish you could move to Vermillion! 😉

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