In celebration on Coq au vin day, (one of our favorite dishes), we offer a story of our little urban “farm/ranch” in the heart of Denver.
We belong to an amazing chicken co-op that provided us the opportunity to be involved from the ground up. We had 9 little chicks in our home from day two of their lives for a little over two months. We fed them their first food. We fell in love with them, loved them, named them, and we certainly had the most spoiled chicks in the city.
The chicks all live on a farm now as part of the co-op. 40 happy hens growing strong, someday to give us eggs. One rooster ended up in the group, and he was pretty aggressive with the hens. The day finally came to a head where the lives of the hens were in danger (his fault) and he was separated. Unfortunately due to the (very) early morning cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster, he had no place on the farm in the middle of the city, or in the back yard of our members.
SPOILER: if you have are sensitive about killing, plucking, or eating an animal, please skip on to another post. If not, read on.
I grew up in Boulder, CO. I never had the opportunity to raise chickens in our backyard, and certainly never had the chance to butcher one. I know where this rooster has been every day of his life, and exactly what he has eaten: Organic, no gmo, no soy feed and fresh Colorado water (and maybe a little poop, because chickens poop in their water a lot.) I was very excited about this.
I did a little research on youtube, asked some friends and sharpened up the knife. We grabbed a plastic container to hold the rooster, grabbed our gloves and got to business.
I talk a big game. I am down for every experience, but this time I got a little nervous. I have never had anything die by my hands before. I shuffle spiders out the door in lieu of smashing them. (I do, however, kill mosquitos). Mark gave me a little pep talk and we made it happen.
There are tons of videos on the web about how to do this, so if you are ever lucky enough to do it yourself, youtube it. I’ll just say, have your mise en place ready so you can move once it is started. I cannot believe that my Grandma Hunter used to do this all the time when she was growing up in Fargo.
It happened. He bled.
The video said to place the bird in boiling water to make it easier to pluck, but we just got plucking. This way, I could see which feathers were pretty for my father, who will use them in tying his flies. Its pretty easy to pluck. And a great excuse to use the word “pluck”. Like mother “plucker”. Mark cleaned out the insides, which was just one step too intimate for me.
Here he is drying out after plucking and before I burned off the feathers on out little gas burner. I broke down the animal.
The recipe for dinner was decided by Mark, he wanted coq au vin, which we love. Traditionally, this recipe great for an old hen. The red wine and the braising make the meat tender and tasty. Our bird is young, but it still sounded good to me. We used white wine instead (it is hot in Denver right now), and it turned out fantastic.
Talk about using the animal, here is where the bird ended up:
Feathers: to my Dad Jim for tying flies for fishing
Feet, bones: into the braising liquid for flavor and enriching the broth
Meat: enjoyed every bit of it.
Nothing was wasted. Thank you Mr. Rooster.
Coq au Vin blanc:
- 1 rooster, cleaned and broken down
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 each, carrot, peeled and rough chopped
- 1 each bay leaf
- 1 small bunch thyme (pull from the herb pot outside)
- 1 spring rosemary (herb pot)
- 2 cups or so chicken stock
- white wine (enough to cover the bird after the stock)
- to taste kosher salt and black pepper
- season the bird skin and sear on each side in a splash of oil until golden brown. Set aside.
- place onion and garlic in pot. Saute until translucent.
- Add bird, stock and wine. Heat through. Add herbs.
- Heat for 1 1/2 hours or until rediculously tender and crazy flavorful.
- Season to taste.
Serve with warm bread for dipping. The bread with the sauce alone was enough to make a meal!