Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A roasted industrial chicken that left me slightly bitter

Although I love to eat chicken, I don’t cook this bird very often. My partner, who was used to free range chicken before moving to Canada, simply hates North American chicken. I can’t blame her; most of our chickens are raised in factory farms and fed stuff you won’t even believe could be legal. There are tons of activists groups and organizations condemning these practices, mostly basing their argument on concerns about cruelty against animals, (link, link, link, link) but few mention how bad the resulting meat is. In fact, many of these groups advocate a vegan diet so I doubt they have any concern about the taste of meat. At the end however, at least in this country, we have little choice but to buy junk. My partner is working part-time and I am still unemployed at this moment so we have little money to indulge in organic, free range or simply tasty chicken.

Hence yesterday we bought a factory farmed chicken. I actually insisted because I love eating birds (duck, quail, Cornish hen…) and because cheap poultry is usually the only thing we can afford. I made myself believe that I could make something good out of this fowl using some flavouring ingredients such as thyme, bacon and garlic. Today I proceeded with my plan and cooked the bird. I placed garlic slices and thyme under the skin, added bacon strips on top of the bird and roasted it as instructed in most decent cookbooks: breast side down for the first 30 minutes and then breast side up until cooked.

At diner, I served it with roasted root vegetables (carrot, rutabaga, celeriac and potatoes) and a sauce made with the jus from the roasting pan. What a nice combination! Well, to be honnest it was only ok. The taste of the chicken was very mild… not to say bland. The thyme flavour was overwhelming and gave the meat a slight but weird bitter aftertaste; something like the taste you get from drinking cheap beer. I have to say that it was more than just a little bit disappointing. I am not sure where I failed, maybe it was the ingredients and their dosage, maybe it was the chicken itself. Street corner rotisseries are often able to offer a much tastier chicken using what I believe to be the same factory farmed chicken. However, their chicken does not always taste like, er… chicken.

I might be fast to blame the chicken industry for the bland taste of today’s poultry; after all, there is a huge demand for flavourless skinless and boneless chicken breast. I’m not the greatest cook either and I am sure there is way to deal with this kind of bland meat: if Chinese cooks can make such amazing dishes out of tofu and rice there must be a way to make something tasty with industrial chicken. The problem is that I still don’t know how.

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