*Reader alert: The following story involves some general information on poultry processing (no gory details or photos, though). If you’d rather not hear more about how the meat my family eats came from real live animals, some of whom grew up in our backyard, stop here. If you do eat meat, however, I would encourage you to educate yourself on where the meat you eat comes from and how the animals who provide your next meal live, are cared for, and die. If you currently consume commodity meat, consider trying out a responsible local producer and see for yourself if you can taste, see and feel the difference. -Liz
Last year around this time, I had the grand idea to hatch some eggs. Luckily, my mom and her third grade class handled the incubation phase of the project after I carefully sourced the rare-ish breed eggs (blue laced red wyandottes). Unfortunately, we ended up with a lot of roosters and not too many hens. One lucky fellow got to stay and keep our girls company. As it turns out, I think he is really a gold laced wyandotte but regardless we love him and are lucky to have neighbors that actually enjoy his early morning antics.
The rest of the boys, however, made their way to our local poultry processor very shortly after they found their crows. One cock-a-doodle-do at 5am is tolerable. Five was unbearable. Processing day was surprisingly easy as usual; I loaded up the boys in a poultry crate, drove the 15 minutes to Ben Shaw’s on-farm processing facility, deposited my crate outside the door and went on my way. A couple of hours later I returned, wrote a check for just a few dollars per bird (I had already invested my fair share in feed, space and time to raise them) and picked up my poultry cleaned, bagged and chilled just the same as I might find chicken for sale at the farmers market.
My roosters weren’t exactly the same as a meat-type chicken like those I’ve raised in the past or you’d see for sale. Like any other animal, there are a variety of breeds. These boys happened to be a laying breed since my goal in hatching the eggs was to increase my laying hen flock (kind of a fail in that department this time around… better luck this year!). The laying breeds are shaped differently than the meat breeds and are, well, less meaty. My roosters were young and healthy, though, and relatively fat from a late summer scrounging grass and bugs in the yard and being indulged on too much scratch corn served up by my enthusiastic toddlers and their friends.
While laying breeds used for meat are generally regarded as most suitable for stew or soup, I make my stock and soup weekly from our leftover roast chickens (also raised by us, or purchased locally from my friends Josh, Mr. & Mrs. Grant, or Michael). I decided to try something different with my rooster meat. My kids were in a chicken nugget “phase” thanks to being served lots of the frozen variety at their grandparents house and I thought I’d take a shot at a from-scratch (and healthier, less processed/packaged) substitute.
RECIPE: ROOSTER NUGGETS
2 whole roosters (or 2lb chicken or turkey meat, any cut or ground – I do recommend using some dark meat)
1 cup instant potato flakes
1/4 cup flax seed, ground fine
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1) If you are using whole poultry, cut all the meat from the bones and remove all the skin and any visible fat. Chop the meat into small pieces and lay in a shallow pan or cookie sheet.
2) Freeze for 10 minutes or so, just to make the meat a bit firm.
3) Grind using a stand mixer meat grinder attachment OR chop fine in a food processor. If using a food processor, you will have to do this in at least 4 batches so you don’t overload the mixer bowl.
NOTE: I have used both the grinder and food processor method and have not noticed a significant difference in the end result so don’t fret if you don’t have a grinder. If you don’t a food processor but have a lot of time you could also chop the meat VERY small by hand and it would probably work.
4) Grind the flaxseeds (I love flax and add it to as many things as I can, so we have a coffee grinder dedicated to flax only).
5) Mix the ground/chopped meat with the flax and all of the remaining ingredients. Adjust the oil as you see fit – 3 tablespoons results in a nice crisp nugget as some of the oil in released during cooking. If you don’t want them sizzling in the pan quite so much or are watching your waistline, 2 tablespoons of oil is sufficient.
6) Shape the mixture into nugget-y shapes or whatever shape you like and place directly onto a metal baking sheet.
7) Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cooked completely through, which will depend on the shape and thickness of your nuggets. Like hand-shaped hamburgers, the nuggets will shrink in diameter and thicken up a bit while cooking to take this into consideration while shaping. I aimed for about 2″x3″ and no more than 1/2″ thick raw.
MEAL TIME: After cooking, remove from the baking sheet to a paper towel lined plate and serve hot. Once cooked, these can be frozen for up to a month or so and reheated. Our favorite way to reheat is to broil the pre-cooked nuggets directly from the freezer on a baking sheet for about 3-5 minutes per side. My kids devour these over and over, despite the lack of breading and non-white appearance due to the flax. AND they are 100% food allergy friendly!
Enjoy… and I’ll bet you never look at a rooster the same way again!