Friday, April 27, 2007

Making use of your butcher

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At our house, we love chicken and dumplings as well as chicken soup. But it takes *forever* to make chicken broth the traditional way. I was so happy to find an a book my sister gave me for Christmas a recipe for chicken broth that takes a little less than 1 hour to prepare, and that their testers slightly preferred over the traditional stock.

The only problem is that the chicken parts to be hacked into 1" pieces. We do not own a cleaver, and I think if we did I might still be afraid to use it. So what is a girl to do? I considered buying one of those whole, cut-up chickens at the grocery store, but they cost so much more than the uncut versions.

Then it hit me: what are the butchers behind the meat counter there for? So the first time, I very shyly brought a whole chicken which was on sale for $0.50 a pound (which is a *very* good price in our area) and quietly asked the man if he would cut it up for me, because I wanted to buy the sale chicken but I didn't have the proper equipment at home.

Only after he took it from me did I notice a sign up next to the meat department saying, "we custom cut for free!" -- or something like that. Well there you have it! Instead of spending about $1.75 a pound for an already-cut-up chicken, I got the $0.50/lb chicken exactly the way I wanted it! I started wondering if this was the case at other grocery stores. Thus far I have only had the chance to test one other store (Kroger), and it was exactly the same. The lady behind the meat counter there was *so* nice to me. I got the feeling she was kind of bored, and she was very glad to have something to do.

It does take a bit of time for them to do this -- maybe about 5 minutes? -- so be prepared for a wait. But it's a free service, and it allows you to buy cheaper cuts of meat, even if they aren't exactly what you would ordinarily use. Now I wonder if they would, say, take a sale cut of beef and grind it for you? Has anyone ever tried this?

Oh, and by the way... the book was right. The quick stock is *very* tasty. Almost more so than the traditional one, because the meat still retains a lot of flavor. Their tasters decided that only onion and bay leaf were necessary for a flavorful stock. In fact, they found that when you added just about anything else it actually took away from the flavor. Here's the recipe for anyone interested:

1 whole chicken, cut into parts with the back and wings hacked into 1" pieces.
1 onion, medium diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
2 quarts water

1. On medium to medium high heat, saute the onions in a bit of oil until they soften, about 5 minutes. Then remove the onions and add the back and wing pieces. Saute until they have a light brown color on all sides. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and leave for about 20 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the chicken, the bay leaves, onions, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook 20 minutes.

3. Remove the chicken pieces with meat on them. Strain the stock, discarding the rest. When the chicken has cooled, shred the meat from the bones. You can make chicken and dumplings or chicken soup, etc now, or you can refrigerate/freeze the stock and meat until ready to use.

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5 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Mary Ann

    I will have to check into this at my grocery stores. I hate cutting up whole chickens, but hate to pay the higher price for them already cut-up. Great post!

  • Birdie

    Thanks for the tip. I'll have to check it out sometime.

  • Ewokgirl

    That's a great tip! It never occurred to me before to take sale meats over to the butcher department. I'll definitely look into this in the future!

  • Alexandra

    I feel silly for not having tried this! Tahnks for the tip.

  • stacy

    I forget about this too and feel timid to ask sometimes. Isn't it funny how we feel bad for asking people to do their jobs. LOL. The way I found out about this is that my MIL told me this is how she does ground beef. She will buy roast on sale ( I am not sure if it is a specific cut) then has them make it into ground beef. She says it has a lot less fat and feels safer about it as well. If I am making something with cut up chicken, like fajitas or a casserole and find fresh on sale, I try to buy bulk and I ask them to cut it to my specifications and it saves tons of time and mess in the kitchen at home. Thanks for posting this.