When you raise hens in your garden, you are bound to end up with more than a rooster or two. We opt to let ours enjoy life with the girls, happily free-ranging until the day comes, when it is time to become part of our food cycle.
We have learned quite a bit about how to take care of them in a humane and careful manner. I will not go into the details in this post, but will try and write about it sometime in the future. But for the time being, what do you do with a rooster?
I have always been a fan of coq au vin, many people make it with chickens, because roosters (unless you raise your own) can be very hard to come by. You will find a variety of recipes online, each with their own nuance. Some call for armagnac vs. cognac, pearl onions vs. shallots, I say go with what you have and feel free to experiment. But one of the key ingredients is a good quality chicken stock. If you do not have any in stock, no pun intended, now is the time to use all the parts from your rooster, including his feet!
Did you know that poultry feet make for a thick, healthy stock due to the high collagen and mineral content? Yes, and they are easy to prepare. In order to use them, you will need to scald them in boiling water for a minute or two, and peel off the outer membrane. It comes off easily, and only takes a minute. You must also remove the outer sheath on the talons, which when done, leaves you with a pristinely clean foot to toss into your stock pot. Add the neck and what ever other inner organs you have on hand, and let them simmer on the stove for a few hours so that your stock is ready when you prepare your meal. Perfect for a sunday dinner, or easily put into a day when working from home. (I wrote this post and took pics as I cooked, on a weekday while juggeling conference calls and working – last minute details while the kids are still clearing the table 😉 It is not a time consuming meal, it just needs tending on occasion throughout the day )
Once you are ready to start preparing your meal, chop lardons or bacon into chunks and brown them in a thick bottomed, preferably enamelled pot (cast iron may react with the wine). While they are browning, cut your bird into quarters, season with salt and pepper on each side.
TIP: if you want to get nicely browned skin that does not stick to the pan and tear, let the skin air dry before browning.
- Remove the lardons from the pan, leaving the drippings.
- Brown your meat, careful not to overcrowd in the pan.
- peel your onions (I used shallots) you can choose to leave them whole if they are small, or cut into sections, whatever your preference is.
- turn your meat to brown the other side
- add a good splash of cognac or armagnac and enjoy the smell! You can flame it off, but I prefer to let it cook off
- add a few cloves of garlic, thyme and a bay leaf or two and return bacon to the pot – optional: add tomato paste
- add two glasses or cups 😉 of red wine and the equivalent amount of stock that you have prepared earlier.
- Cover and let simmer for 3 hours, while your home fill swith the smell of pure goodness!
- cut the mushrooms in quarters, and pan-fry. Some prefer to add them earlier in the process, but I like to add them toward the end to retain their texture.
Serve with boiled potatoes and enjoy!
Note: I would have taken an ‘after photo’ before serving, but quite honestly it was just time to dive in as it smelled so good!
Here are the ingredients I used, when it comes to cooking, I tend to go for inspiration and just wing it from there. Baking on the other hand is chemistry.. follow the proportions. But a little tender loving care, quality ingredients and time will give you a great result.
- rooster, with neck, giblets and feet (contact a local farmer to see where you can get one if you do not raise them yourself) otherwise a hen will do.. chickens will fall apart if cooked this long.
- bay leaf
- red wine (Côte du Rhône worked really well for us)
- cognac or armagnac