Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Ick Factor

I've cooked thousands of dinners for our family over the years (seriously - we've been married almost eight years and I cook six nights out of every seven) and we've had chicken as our main source of protein for probably one-third of those meals. Not just any chicken, mind you, but boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I use them for everything from grilled chicken to baked chicken to casseroles. That's a lot of chicken. And a lot of money. And just like everyone else these days, we've been looking for ways to cut back on our grocery bill so the days of using expensive chicken breasts three times a week are over.

So in the spirit of pinching grocery pennies, I cooked not one, but two whole chickens for the very first time yesterday. I'd found whole chickens on sale at our local grocery store (2 chickens for $8) and used probably $3 of lemons, herbs and spices. Our little herb garden came in handy for this recipe that saw on Oprah a few weeks ago so that saved us even more. And while I was thrilled that I could save money by cooking whole chickens, I was not so thrilled with the process.

I thawed the frozen chickens. Very easy, not messy at all. So far, so good.
I opened the packages and rinsed the outside of the chickens. Very easy, a bit messy. Still so far, so good.
I put my hand inside a chicken to pull out the innards. And this is where I lost it.

With a pile of gizzards, necks and who knows what else piled in the dish I'd used for defrosting, I slowly slunk down and away from the cabinet leaving my hands over the sink and put my head as close to my knees as possible. My gag reflex was working overtime and I was certain that my lunch was going to make a reappearance. Sydney came running to see what was wrong and then ran to get Ryan who finished cleaning out the chickens and patted them dry.

While Ryan laughed his head off, I composed myself long enough to use a pair of forks to stuff the birds with lemon rinds and herbs. And while I'm sure it was not the fastest or most efficient way of doing it, using one fork to lift the chicken's tail area (I think that's what it was) and the other to stuff the flavorings into the smelly cavity worked quite well for me and my gag reflex. I poured the marinade on top, covered them with foil and shoved them in the oven.

They came out quite juicy and tasty and those two birds supplied us with enough meat for four meals. We had roasted chicken with vegetables last night and this week I'll be making chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie and depending on the weather, perhaps chicken and dumplings.

On the upside, we saved quite a bit of money: we got at least sixteen servings of chicken for about $11.

On the downside, there's a huge ick factor involved: I don't think I'll ever get the image of the innards or the smell of the inside of a chicken out of my head. And despite the money we saved, I don't know if I can go through the process again.

But, since Ryan didn't seem to be bothered by it (apparently that's one advantage to growing up in a family that hunts for its meat), I think I'll just make him do it from now on.

After all, I've cooked enough meals - it's his turn.

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