My sister and I ate General Tso last week, and he was delicious, though the cooking part didn’t exactly go as planned.
The original plan was to do an Asian-style tea smoked chicken, which is delicious but hasn’t graced my kitchen in a few years (I have a feeling it will soon, though.) But that plan shifted when we made a shocking discovery:
The General only had one testicle. And it was enormous.
To give you some perspective, a chicken’s brain is about the size of my thumbnail. The General’s lone gonad was nearly the size of my fist. Suddenly, his aggressive behavior made a lot more sense.
So back to the recipe. We’d talked before about making Beercan Chicken, mostly in jest, because we used to have a Speckled Sussex hen named Beercan. But now we had to, because of a favorite local beer: One Nut Brown Ale.
Unfortunately, Oskar Blues had One Nut on tap but not in cans or growlers. I briefly considered ordering a pint at their restaurant and smuggling it out, but instead I settled on the next best thing:
Only, the Beercan Chicken idea didn’t work out so well either. I decided to try doing it in the oven instead of the grill since it was getting dark outside, but the can slid around on the cookie sheet and collapsed. I tried for a few minutes to get the whole mess balanced, even using a different size can and spilling most of the beer in the process, but I soon gave up. It seemed disrespectful somehow, trying to balance a chicken impaled on a beer can. I can’t imagine why.
So instead, I laid the whole chicken down in the spilled beer (about half a can’s worth) and rubbed it all over with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh thyme. Then I added a few pats of butter and some chicken stock to the pan and put it in a 325 degree oven until the thigh meat reached 165F (this took about an hour and a half for a nearly 4 pound bird.) I turned it over halfway through the cooking process, and basted every 15 minutes or so.
The meat was tasty, and not at all tough (partly because we let it rest in the fridge for a couple days, partly because Speckled Sussex roosters are slow to mature.) The recipe I based mine on used a lot of pepper, and that plus the beer flavor was a bit overwhelming — I wouldn’t necessarily do it the same way next time, but it was still the best chicken I’d ever eaten because I grew it myself.
The leftovers were made into frozen burritos, assembly line style. And everything else went into the stockpot, soon to become several pints of rich, velvety chicken stock.
To make stock, I cover the carcass with filtered water (add in any unused giblets, too) and throw in a bunch of carrots and onions. We have a huge lovage plant that comes back every year, so I use that in place of celery (but you can use anything you like.) This time I also threw in a few handfuls of thyme, tarragon, and whatever else needed to be cut back in the herb garden.
I boil it for as long as I can (about 9 hours, this time) then strain it into glass jars. Once cool, I freeze it in plastic tubs and then vacuum seal the frozen stock so I can reclaim the containers. Then I have chicken stock whenever I need it — for soups, or as a vehicle for poached eggs.
Stock is infinitely better when made at home, and it’s a perfect way to make use of every last bit of the chicken (and fill your house with delicious smells in the process.) So please, never throw away a chicken or turkey carcass — why would you want to waste all that, especially when it’s so easy? If you don’t have time to make the stock right away (I usually don’t) just seal up the carcass and stick it in the freezer.