Two days ago I saw this awesome picture on my friend Annie’s Facebook page (taken at her local Williams-Sonoma).
Ahhh!!! Jacques Pepin!!!! Her words: “I couldn’t even speak, you would think I was meeting Madonna.” My sentiments exactly. Annie and her fantastic husband Phil, both of whom I have known since our high school days in Northern Kentucky, live in San Francisco – a city that has been cropping up in conversations with Andy, my better half, more and more. Jacques Pepin sightings are definitely going in the “pro” column.
Now let’s move on to what, exactly, Jacques Pepin has to do with chicken. I can sum it up in one word: EVERYTHING. Ever since I pretty much ditched corporate food television (with the exceptions of Top Chef and a few select tidbits from Cooking Channel), I have been rediscovering the gems of public television including “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” and Jacques Pepin’s “More Fast Food My Way”. Because they come on at totally strange times – like when I am at work – my Tivo lovingly collects them for me so that on Saturday and Sunday mornings I can kick back and learn from the masters. And that, my friends, is how I know that Jacques Pepin has everything to do with chicken.
My favorite episode of “Julia and Jacques” is the one where the master French chef teaches me to break down a whole chicken. It will never get deleted. I watch it over and over, just to make sure I’m still doing it the right way. This deceptively simple task can be extremely daunting for those of you who haven’t handled a lot of poultry, but I promise that once you get the hang of it you will be butchering birds like a pro, with just 5 simple cuts, in no time. Andy once said that it was a little scary how good I’d gotten at it, a comment that made me extremely satisfied.
Attached here are the best videos I could find on the web, courtesy of Food & Wine magazine, of the master himself, but I’ll add (or reiterate) a couple tips that I’ve found to be the keys to success:
1) Use a super sharp knife. There is no point in trying to butcher a bird with a dull knife. It’ll never work.
2) Make sure said bird is pretty darn dry to avoid it slipping around – which might also lead to cutting yourself. I can tell you this from first-hand experience.
3) When you’re attacking the thigh/leg quarters, grab the leg with your non-knife wielding hand hold the bird up a bit so that it’s weight separates the pieces you are trying to cut away. This will make finding the joint much easier.
This site also has a couple of other videos of Jacques doing things like buterflying, trussing, and carving roasted chicken. These tutorials will also be extraordinarily helpful for recipes that I plan to include on this blog. It will probably become pretty clear in the near future that I have a serious love affair with roasted chicken. My nirvana is sitting on my couch and letting the aromas of a roasting, well-seasoned bird wash over me. I also firmly believe in the use of bone-in chicken for a number of reasons. It’s more flavorful and produces amazing juices for sauces, the bones can be saved to make stock, and it’s very often a lot cheaper than it’s boneless, skinless friends. Stay tuned for some of my favorites, perhaps as soon as this weekend!