“Take apart a whole chicken?” I thought to myself as Learning Center Chef Instructor Nina Lesser-Goldsmith plopped a 4 pound free-range roaster on my cutting board. Prior to last night I had only whole roasted a chicken but after graduating from “Chicken 101” I can proudly say I can take apart an entire chicken, cook the breasts, thighs and legs and use the remaining carcass to make stock—who would of thought I could go from never going near a whole chicken with a knife to knowing how to use each and every part of the bird in three hours!? Not me! But Nina is an amazing teacher and her excitement and enthusiasm around this fundamental class made all participants determined to breakdown a chicken.
After everyone took apart their chickens it was time to start cooking. First, we started with the thighs and legs of the bird which we left attached. Nina taught us how to braise- a process where you develop color and flavor over high heat on your meat or vegetables and then add liquid to them and put them in a low oven for a long time until the meat is tender, juicy and falling off the bone. We browned our chicken legs and thighs with a mirepoix, (onions, carrots and celery) garlic and herbs then added chicken stock and tomato sauce and let them braise in the oven for an hour or so. The meat was falling off the bone and the sauce was rich and delicious!
Next up Nina taught us how to make the delicious chicken stock we used when braising. She took a pot full of water and added the chicken carcass, mirepoix, herbs and whole peppercorns and puts them on a low boil for 4-6 hours until the stock was golden and translucent and utterly scrumptious- way better than anything I had been using from a box. I can’t wait to use me chicken carcass from the class to make some!
Then it was on to the breasts. We left the skins on which I had never done before and man have I been missing out! Nina started the class by saying how the skin is her favorite part and now I know why! We pan seared our breast, skin side down so it got nice and crispy then made a sauce to go over it. The sauce was so simple and tasty; I can’t wait to make it for friends and family. We cooked shallots and thyme in the same pan we cooked the chicken and then de-glazed (got the brown bits off the bottom) with dry white wine and chicken stock. After it reduced we added a bit of lemon zest and a pat of butter and swirled the pan over low heat to emulsify the sauce and…voila! The most tender, juicy, crispy skinned chicken breast I’d ever tasted topped with the simplest yet tastiest sauce!
To put a cherry on top of an already great class, you are able to bring all you leftovers home, which means I had all this delicious food in my fridge for the next night. Since this is a fundamental class where a lot of classic techniques are learned Nina tries to teach this class every three months or so. Make sure your on the look-out for the next time she teaches it, you don’t want to miss this amazing class!