When I set up the new bird feeding station on the edge of the deck this fall I had no idea that I was going to have so much fun with it. For the first week or so, the birds pretty much ignored it, then they arrived in droves, whatever a drove is, and I get to watch them from my kitchen window and dining room table.
I soon dug out my 1990 edition of Peterson's Western Birds so I could identify them. What I usually get are Oregon Juncos, House Sparrows and a few red Finches, but as Henry Mitchell put it in one of his brilliant garden essays, what did I expect - Pink Flamingos??
Anyway, the above handsome guy and a whole gob of his buddies dropped by the other day for an afternoon visit. Haven't seen him since but according to my guide he is a Chestnut-Backed Chickadee and prefers moist conifer forests along the central coast of California but my backyard is within his range. I hope he comes back.
Gee - I feel a little guilty about giving you a recipe for chicken after all of that but I'm gonna do it anyway. QFC had whole chickens on sale this past week and it got me to thinking about how easy they are to cook and how useful the cooked meat is to have around. I always try to keep a few bags in the freezer, ready to be added to soup or pot pie.
Until recently I've not cared for the texture of crockpot chicken but that was because I cooked it too long and with added liquid. Who knew?? Didn't you just throw the chicken in the crockpot and head off for a full day at work to return to dinner ready and waiting?? That was the "old" way and it got dinner on the table but nobody was particularly thrilled.
This is my method now and it produces a very good chicken, not quite rotisserie but pretty darn close. I took a whole chicken, removed the giblets and gave it a wash and dry. Then I slathered it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and Montreal Chicken Seasoning (the secret).
I turned it breast side down because I wanted a moist breast and I did not add any liquid.
I needed to leave the house for a while so I set it to Low for 8 hours.
My bird was almost five pounds so I checked it after five hours and it was almost done. I turned it over to brown on the top and gave it another 45 minutes. I apologize to all the food photographers out there but I had to make sure that it wasn't over cooked but not raw, either.
You can tell by looking at the wing on the left that it got pretty browned on the back side but it was too close to done to brown very much on top by the time I got home and got it turned over.
Chicken cooked like this is not only good but it yields a concentrated broth that looks like broth jello. Here it is after a night in the fridge, with the layer of fat removed. That top layer is the goodies left after straining and is full of seasonings and flavor. Don't throw it out.
If you haven't discovered Henry Mitchell's garden essays, you are in for a treat. Give The essential earthman or One man's garden a try. You will thank me.