Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coq au Vin a la Paprikash

Warning to those who are skiddish about such matters:  this post is about my hen which turned out to be a rooster which turned out to be dinner.   If you are weak stomached, or perhaps deeply appreciate the
sterilization that our industrialized food production instills, you may not want to continue.  I promise to have a slightly less bloody story for next time.
Paprikash turned out to be a boy.  One ill-fated Tuesday morning, I went out to toss the girls their scraps for the day, walked down the alley off to the bus stop and "carrrraaaagh" came echoing between the garages, assailing my ears.  We had our doubts about the sexuality of this one hen.  She had been aggressive since day one, straining her neck and cheeping louder than the other three.  Then her neck feathers started to loosen a bit and when harassed, she would flare her feathers.  Her tail feather started to grow longer than the rest and started to curl over.  But that sound was the final axe that fell.  I had promised neighbors and my landlord that I would not have roosters.  Paprikash is a boy, and he needs to die.
Marching down the alley with extra anxiety in my step, I ran the gamut of options.  The Chicago Chicken Google Group often posts about lost roosters, or folks in the city having extra roosters that they don't know quite what to do with so I knew that going that route to find little Papri a new home had been over saturated.  8 of my best girl friends from college were due to arrive two days later for one of the best bachelorette weekends of all time, and beheading a cock was not on the agenda.  So I called up a favor from a friend.
Bright and early Saturday morning, two friends, Paprikash and I did the death march over to Green City Market.  A farmer there that I've been buying from for two years promised to take Papri off my hands. "I'm actually taking a whole lot of my hens to the processor.  You want me to throw him in and bring him back to you next week?"

I said yes.

So here he is, in all his glory.  He had to sit in the freezer for a few weeks until I had 5 hours to cook him, and brave friends who wanted to celebrate the end of a few good months.  Most chicken we eat is three months old, and Papri lived a nice, free range, 4 month long life, well fed and well loved.  And with a little help from Julia Child, he was absolutely delicious.
and for the record, I have officially learned my lesson.  I will never count my chickens before they become full hens.  Oops.


  1. We have one chick that the boys are betting is a rooster. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, but I think we'd like to go a similar route to what you did, even if it will be bittersweet. If we're going to eat chicken anyway, there's something to be said for having known our little guy, to have fed him and loved him and given him a good life--and then to give him one final thank you for all that he was before we eat him. Seems like the ultimate way to know your food. Was the guy from the farmers' market able to guarantee that you got the same bird, or were the birds all slaughtered together, so that you weren't sure which was which at the end? This would be something I would like to know for sure, if possible.

    Hey was a beautiful chicken! (Silver laced wyandotte?)

  2. It is definitely an experience: knowing your food THAT intimately! My farmer had no trouble separating my bird from his-- mine was a male (his were all female), quite a bit smaller and a completely different breed. He was a Barred Rock and quite a beauty.