Sooooo, I managed to get to Restoration Farm in time to see the very tail end of the first processing (meaning when the birds are killed, plucked and eviscerated, lest I be accused of euphemism).
I did NOT take Leandro; I wanted to see things for myself and not have to focus on keeping him out of trouble. More on his reaction to the chicken in a moment.
First I want to say that the atmosphere at this first round of chicken processing was so calm and cooperative and lovely. The team of Trisha, Lucille, Steve, Brian, Denis, Dan and Caroline was tired, but elated, but not giddy or punchy, after seven hours of chicken guts under the trees. Dan and Caroline’s two kids were there; two-year-old Ada was calm as could be in the face of all the activity.
The chickens — all 35 made it to processing! – weighed in between 4. 16 and 6.65 lbs. As a note, these are not certified organic birds (that’s a whole ‘nother process), but they have been raised according to organic practices – from their feed to their pasture; they just don’t have the stamp.
I also forgot my bloody camera! I wanted to shoot myself (since I couldn’t shoot pictures). So you will have to wait and see whether someone is able to send me photos; then again, perhaps you don’t care to see the goings on. Anyhoo, it was clean and well-organized.
So I brought home bird #22, weighing 5.75 lbs. I picked up the necessary ingredients for asopao from the Compare (Latino) supermarket in Farmingdale on the way home. My dad, Pedro, roused himself from the NYTimes crossword puzzle to separate the bird (we saved the breasts for another meal cause this bird was so big!) and I went to work while Leandro was still across the street at a playdate. It was beautiful to work with. So clean.
Asopao isn’t really Hot, Cheap & Easy, except for the hot, sweaty work if you want to do it right (and I did). Perhaps I will invent a shortcut version one day, but not with this special bird. And really, my mom and dad were taken back to the days of my great-aunts cooking all day long…I really got it right. The chicken gave so much real flavor; it is certainly not as tender as factory-farmed, but it is really good. In the next few posts I’ll talk about some of the more unusual ingredients here and what to do if you can’t find them.
Leandro sat down to eat and said, “These are the little chickens that got big?”
and I said “Yes, Trisha and everyone killed them today so we could eat.”
“Oh. You went to see?” he said, and I said yes.
He stuck a big bite in his mouth and said, “Delicious.”
I forgot to tell him not to speak with his mouth full.
Asopao de Pollo (Soupy Chicken and Rice) Serves 6-8
Dedicated to my tía-abuelas
A – Three pounds chicken (may be whole chicken or, if you have a big bird, reserve the breasts for another meal. MUST HAVE BONES!!! Should have neck, heart and liver as well) cleaned and separated into drumsticks, thighs, wings (separated and tips cut off and reserved for stock), backbone, etc.
B – ADOBO (pound all ingredients in B in a mortar and pestle into a smooth paste)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 black peppercorns
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 2.5 tsp salt
- 1 pinch (1/8 tsp) turmeric or sweet paprika (Turmeric stains, so beware!)
- 1.5 tsp olive oil
- ½ tsp vinegar
C – 2 Cups white rice (less if you want soupier soup.Sometimes the rice takes over.)
D – 9 Cups water and 1 Tbs salt
E – SOFRITO 1
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 3 oz ham steak or jamón para cocinar, diced
- 1 oz bacon, chopped rustically
- 1 green cooking pepper (cubanelle or Italian pepper), diced
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 6 culantro leaves (recao), minced
- 4 sweet small peppers called ají dulce in Hispanic markets (do NOT purchase Jamaican ají or scotch bonnet! They look the same but the Jamaican/scotch bonnet are HABANEROS, deadly hot and inappropriate for this dish!) seeded and minced
- ½ Cup cilantro leaves, minced
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil (seasoned with achiote, for the more expert criollo cook)
F – SOFRITO 2
- 1 Tbs capers, drained indifferently
- 1 tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 8 oz can Spanish-style tomato sauce
- 4 oz roasted red pepper, drained indifferently and diced
- 10 pimiento stuffed green olives
- 4 oz Spanish dry, cured chorizo sausage
G – ½ Cup light red wine
H – OPTIONAL – in Puerto Rico we decorate and cool off the soup by topping with a can of petit pois or asparagus. Today’s foodies are not so hip to those particular vegetables in their mushy canned form. I leave it up to you.
- Separate chicken parts into two large bowls. The back bone, neck, wingtips, liver, heart, and kidneys go in one for the stock. The meatier drumsticks, wings, thighs, and breasts (if using) go in the other. I remove most of the skin and cut off much of the fat. Season all pieces with the ingredients in B. (Adobo).
- Soak the rice in abundant water while doing the rest of the prep and cooking.
- Place the ingredients in D in a large (6 qt) saucepan. Add the stock chicken pieces, cover, bring to a boil at medium high, boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, covered.
- In an even larger pot, place all the ingredients in E (Sofrito 1), and sauté at medium high until vegetables begin to wilt. Add all the ingredients in F (Sofrito 2) and continue stirring until combined and beginning to stick. Add wine and scrape bottom of pot. Add the meaty chicken pieces and cook at medium, turning frequently to coat well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium low.
- When the stock and chicken sofrito are ready, drain stock into chicken. From the stock, reserve the back and wings and get as much meat off them as you can, adding to the soup, discarding the bones. You may add heart and liver to the soup as well.
- Bring to a boil.
- Drain the rice, stir into the soup, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered until rice is cooked (start checking in 10-15 minutes). Serve with roasted red pepper, peas or asparagus garnish. If the rice takes over, just add water.