With 34 people to feed at my birthday party tomorrow, quite a lot of food shopping and preparation has been going on for the past week. I’ve made three different kinds of ice cream for our home gelateria, all ready to be removed from the freezer a little while before dessert is served and I’m really pleased that I managed to find some gorgeous little gelateria-style paper cups and little spoons to serve it in for a touch of Italian authenticity. Head chef for the main courses though, is my son Jonathan. I talked about the chicken ‘negotiation’ and purchase in my post last weekend on Twickenham Farmers’ Market. I then went round to Jonathan’s house (where the party is being held), to watch him joint the six chickens and put them in a marinade, then straight into the freezer. They’ll be taken out to thaw tomorrow morning and then be all ready to go on to the barbecue in the evening. I thought it would make a good post to photograph each step. Jonathan is great at jointing chickens. I always ask him to do mine. I can do it myself but I’m not very good, whereas he is expert at it. I’m not exactly sure how he learned it: he said he watched Raymond Blanc on TV. But I’ve also watched Raymond Blanc on TV but it didn’t make me this good!
One implement that makes the job far easier and gets better results is using a proper, very sharp boning knife, as Jonathan did. What he did was joint each chicken into six pieces: the breast he left whole to be sliced after being cooked; the legs he divided into 2, leaving separate drumsticks.
First of all he did the legs, cutting off the feet which were thrown into a separate pan for discarded bits of the chicken that would be used to make chicken stock. Then he nicked through the skin at the top of the leg with the knife and pulled it gently so he could see where to start cutting without cutting into the flesh. He sliced round, turning the chicken as he went and cutting high so little flesh was left on the carcass.
The trick is to take things gently. Feel your way round so that you are cutting and separating in natural breaks. Cut through joints in the bone and then the meat separates easily. Once your leg has come away, cut through the joint at the top of the drumstick to make two portions. Do the other leg and then tackle the breasts.
Cut away the wings, then open out the end of the chicken ready to remove the wishbone. (This was a trick he got from Raymond Blanc which apparently makes the whole exercise of jointing much easier.) Slice carefully in to where the wishbone is and carve round and pull out. Here it is!
Now you’re ready to separate the breasts from the carcass.
Slice carefully along the top of the breasts as close to the bone as you can and gently slice and pull away. There is a natural break between bone and flesh so just look carefully as you go and it’s obvious where to cut. Slice right round and finally cut away. And there you have your chicken supreme.
Six chickens later, you’ll have this.
Then there was the marinade.
Jonathan used one of his favourites from Moro the Cookbook, Pinchitos Morunos – Moorish Skewers. The marinade contains coriander seeds, cumin and fennel seeds, sweet smoked paprika, garlic, saffron, oregano, bay leaf, red wine vinegar and olive oil. The chicken was divided into 4 large freezer containers and the marinade divided between those.
As I’m sure you can imagine, it took some time to joint all the chickens and do this preparation, but the great thing is, there’s nothing to do on the party day except thaw the chicken and it will be ready to go straight on to the barbecue. Which is as well, as on the day he plans to make butterfly lamb too for the barbecue, and also Ottolenghi’s Roasted Butternut Squash with red onions, pine nuts and tahini dressing as a side vegetable dish. My daughter is also cooking, making homemade blinis with smoked salmon to start. There’s a lot to be said for introducing your children to good food and cooking right from the start … when you get to a certain age, they’ll start cooking for your parties!