Early on the morning of Memorial Day, our brave rooster General Tso crowed his last.
The General was a Speckled Sussex rooster, and he was not altogether a bad guy. He always let the ladies eat first, and he was very protective of his flock — especially Kung Pao, who hatched and raised him from a chick. But as the General’s testosterone surged, things got to a point where we couldn’t take food out to the chicks or change their water without fending off an attack. Everything was a threat: The big plastic waterer, the bucket we carry feed in, the reflective stripes on my sister’s running pants.
Clearly, we were headed for another Colonel Sanders. Though he hadn’t actually drawn blood from any visitors yet, the prospect of having friends bring their kids over to meet the chickens made me shudder. And the poor hens, much fewer than he should have had, lost most of their back feathers and ran from his advances. The flock dynamic was all wrong.
And so with heavy hearts, we decided it was time to butcher our rooster.
This was my first time killing a chicken, at least directly. Over my lifetime, without really acknowledging it, I’ve commanded the deaths of thousands of chickens. Ordering it in restaurants, buying pullets from a feed store; it’s not really any different when you slaughter your own bird. It just seems that way, because it’s right there in front of you.
We helped some good friends with a few of their chickens last year, so we knew what to do and how to process the General afterward. But I’ve never personally taken the life of a creature in its prime, looking it in the eye and breathing the same air. It was a heavy prospect for me, and I shed a few tears in the days leading up to it as we made preparations. As I’m sure I will this fall, when it’s time to process the roosters from the chicks we hatched last month. But I knew I could handle it, because I realized long ago that if I’m going to keep eating meat I should be okay with where it comes from.
In the end, it was not an easy morning but it went exactly as we hoped. The General went to sleep on his roost and woke up in a dog crate, with no stressful chase and capture. His last morning was a beautiful one, with birds singing and the scent of lilacs on the breeze. And then, in the space of a few seconds, it was over. A dignified end for a rooster who meant well, but whose time had come.
The General is relaxing in the fridge for a couple days, so that he’ll be nice and tender. Last night, I cooked his liver and made it into a little pâté, just enough for two. It was a perfect way to celebrate a fine rooster with a bit of a mean streak.
This recipe makes a very small batch from a single liver, perfect if you're doing away with an aggressive rooster. It's very quick to put together but should chill for a couple hours before serving.
- 1 chicken liver, about 20 grams
- 2 tbsp onion (20 g)
- 1/4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 small clove garlic, or 1/4 large clove
- 1/4 c water
- dash sea salt
- 2 tbsp softened butter
- 1/2 tsp sherry
- Combine all ingredients except butter and sherry in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over low-medium heat, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand covered about 5 minutes, drain liquid.
- Add sherry and puree until smooth, then blend in butter.
- Pour into a dish, or mold if desired, and chill until set.
- Enjoy with crackers or thinly sliced bread, and remember to raise a glass to the chicken.