Recipe Column: Attached to a ‘naked neck’
I wake up every morning to a Transylvania naked neck.
Sounds pretty erotic doesn’t it? I relayed this to a friend the other day with waggling eyebrows, and he thought I had some new European boyfriend snuggling up to me but, in reality, this particular Transylvanian is a rooster learning how to crow. He and his buddies put up a pretty good clamor every morning, trying to impress the hens, and their calls drift directly into my open bedroom window.
I always laugh when young roosters begin this innate racket. It starts off as a tentative squawking that sounds something like the rasping of a dying battery. Each bird has a different pitch and tenor, and they practice a lot. Early mornings are their preferred time to belt out, and once one starts up, they all gather in a circle, trumpeting to everyone within earshot their toughness and masculinity. When I watch them I’m reminded of a circle of rough and tumble boys, each swaggering to the taunts of their buddies.
When I selected these birds from Murray McMurray Hatchery in June, I put in for the “heavy assorted straight run” which means I ordered a variety of birds-some female-some roosters-of varying breeds. Basically this was a grab bag mixture of chicks, and they have grown to be big birds and eventually the hens will lay brown eggs.
And while they were all adorable fuzz balls when they arrived, I looked askance at the three naked necks that were included in this batch. I wouldn’t have been lying if I described them as so ugly as to be cute but that didn’t last long. It wasn’t too many weeks before they were just plain ugly. In my opinion they resemble vultures with their bare necks and lei of feathers above their crop. But I have watched them grow with wonder and am impressed with their demeanors. (Yes, chickens do have their own distinct personalities.)
These three birds seem to be the leaders of the flock. For instance, when I opened the coop door to the great outdoors when they were just a few weeks old, these were the birds that ventured out first. When I throw a new scrap of food into the pen, the naked necks are the leaders that rush up to give it a try. They are friendly birds, and always come running in from the outside when I enter their indoor coop. Two of these birds are hens, but there is one big red rooster, and it doesn’t take much observing to realize he literally “rules the roost.”
But geez, I just can’t get over how really homely he is. Yet I can’t help but admire this bird, and that puts me in a quandary. All summer long I have steeled myself NOT to become too attached. I decided this spring that a few homegrown chickens in the freezer would be a delicious and economical way to provide for the winter months, which means some of these birds will have to go, namely the roosters. The hens will provide me with eggs to keep and sell, pulling their weight as far as finances go.
Admittedly though, I’m really enjoying the serenading that awakens me every morning from my Transylvanian naked neck. In those early morning hours, when I’m groggy and disoriented, his crowing is a rousing call for the day ahead. When he awakens me, I go to the window to peer out, listening to his crows echoing through my woods. Then I see the damp mist laying low over the trees; I smell the sweet autumn air with its spicy scent and watch newly colored leaves flicker gently in the morning breeze. For me the sound of a rooster crowing is a reminder of simpler times; of cows coming to be milked and fresh eggs and bacon frying on the stove when chores are done.
I’m beginning to reconsider that not all of the roosters need to meet the axe. I think I’m being selfish, and perhaps the hens should have a say in this. And besides, the more I watch Mr. Naked Neck, the more I’m convinced he’s teaching me an important lesson-that maybe we shouldn’t be so fixated on what’s on the outside, but more so on the persistent and exultant jubilation that is capable from within.
6 whole wheat tortillas
6 large eggs
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 sausage link
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream, fat-free
1/2 cup salsa
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange tortillas on a baking sheet and warm in the oven until ready to serve. In a large skillet sprayed with non-stick olive oil spray, sautè diced onion and bell peppers until soft. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove casing from sausage and crumble into the same skillet; cook according to package instructions, remove and set aside. In a large bowl, mix eggs with salt & pepper; pour into skillet and stir, cooking until eggs are firmly set. Remove from heat when cooked through. To assemble your burritos, spread a thin layer of sour cream on each tortilla and top with even amounts of all ingredients: eggs, peppers and onions, sausage, cheddar cheese, and salsa. Roll and serve.