I couldn’t believe it when my dad opened the trunk of his car and handed me a big frozen chicken.
“Just butchered a batch the other day and thought you’d like one,” he said with a smile. We were on busy Hwy. 51, outside a popular restaurant in downtown Minocqua, and had just enjoyed a fine meal. Dad was on his way home, and so the chicken handoff had to take place right there.
I chuckled to myself when I saw a couple of Illinois tourists drive by at the exact moment Dad presented me the flesh colored bird enclosed in a clear plastic bag. Their eyes were as wide as saucers, and the lady passenger even pointed. I could just imagine their conversation back to the Land of Lincoln.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know-it looked like a scalded head.”
“No it couldn’t be. Why would someone have a head in their truck in a plastic bag.”
“I don’t know, these Northwoods people can do some mighty crazy stuff.”
I gladly tucked the behemoth bird under my arm. Dad was in town for a short visit, and had brought up this chicken from the old homestead. Every year he raises a couple batches of these broilers, and they make good eating throughout the winter months. You haven’t tasted chicken until you’ve tasted a home-grown fryer or broiler. This particular bird had spent its life in a big pen, eating bugs, grass and luxuriating in the sun. I saw the entire flock as chicks when I had gone to visit Dad on Father’s Day.
As I drove home, with the big bird on the seat next to me, I got to thinking about how I missed raising chickens with my Dad. We got into the chicken raising business when I was just a sophomore in high school, and our family had moved into the country then. This property, besides having a house, also had a big barn, and once warm weather came, I was hammering up a pen for some chicks.
My dad asked me what I was up to, and when I informed him I was going to raise chickens, he was immediately on board. Then we fashioned up a pen together and procured the widely known Murray McMurray chicken catalog and sat down at a long session to determine what breeds we were going to order. Dad wanted butchering birds, which are known in the chicken world as Cornish cross. These birds are eating machines. Their description in the catalog says it all…”these birds can convert feed to meat faster than any other type of poultry.” They do to.
But I was more interested in the laying birds, and there were so many to choose from. Of course I could have chosen the white and popular Leghorn, which is a virtual egg laying machine, or the more dual purpose birds like Buff Orpingtons and Barred Plymouth Rocks. I ended up getting a mixture, and we couldn’t wait for their arrival.
When they did come, the entire family enjoyed watching them grow, and we all cringed when it was butchering time. Dad would announce the event like this-“We are butchering chickens tomorrow-be there,” which meant we BETTER be there. This is a dirty job that goes a lot faster with many hands, and he expected all five of us kids to help with this chore. But it gave my dad, and us, a lot of pride to know that we had raised these birds, and they were tucked away in a freezer, ready when Mom decided to cook one.
And when she did, the meals were fine indeed. Most of the time she would roast the bird, but sometimes she would boil one, and then we would enjoy a hearty chicken soup made from the broth, chicken pot pie and chicken salad for sandwiches. I was thinking of all these dishes last weekend when I decided to cook up the big bird my dad had given me. It made the house smell delectable as it was roasting, and I enjoyed a good meal, but I have a lot of leftovers. Now I’m going to make a hearty chicken pot pie, and for sure some chicken salad. I’m also going to hand off some of these good leftovers to my own son, but I doubt the deal will go down on the main drag of a busy vacation town.
I’m sure the tourists will be relieved to hear that!
Hearty Chicken Salad
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 stalk celery, chopped
Place almonds in a frying pan. Toast over medium-high heat, shaking frequently. Watch carefully, as they burn easily. In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and pepper. Toss with chicken, almonds, and celery.
Easy Chicken Pot Pie
Two pre-made pie crusts
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
13/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a glass pie plate with one of the crusts. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened. Stir in shredded chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.