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Chicken, Lemon, Leeks & Arses!!

June 16, 2015

A new spin on lemon chicken!

A new spin on lemon chicken!

Do you remember a time when you had to buy the whole bird? That getting just thighs or drumsticks or breasts from the butcher was not the norm? Back then, buying just a piece of chicken, was not just impossible, it was unheard of.

I can remember roast chicken being a big deal in our house. It was never a Sunday thing, but perhaps an occasional Friday or Saturday night, when mum had time. There would always be the argument over who was going to get the breast meat; and mum’s secret delight in eating the parsons nose – no one else wanted that bit!! And we always had boiled peas with a sprig of mint. No microwave ovens back then either!!

It’s funny how things change. Whilst I’m not keen on the drumstick, the thigh is my favourite part now – always succulent and flavoursome, no matter how long you cook it. In my household, the breast is the least sought after part of the bird these days and my husband has taken over savouring the parsons nose!

So I was thinking about this when I went to purchase 2 kilos of chicken thigh cutlets. Every piece a thigh. And I wondered about all of those poor chickens who were bred to produce enormous breasts (there’s a chauvinistic punch line in that!), unsupported by tiny thighs, unable to stand up. So I made a future pact to buy the whole bird and make use of it in every way I could. Buying an organic whole chicken is much much cheaper than buying organic pieces anyway.

Speaking of the parsons nose; this anatomical feature is actually the uropygium (pronounced ‘euro-po-gee-um’), a structure that supports the tail feathers.*

The phrase “parson’s nose” comes from the notion that an English parson may ‘have his nose up in the air’, upturned like the chicken’s rear end! A similar derivation applies to the phrase “Pope’s nose”, which may have originated as a derogatory term meant to demean Catholics in England during the late 17th century. (Wikipedia)

This is the fleshy protuberance visible at the posterior end of a bird and is very moist and succulent as it contains the uropygial gland that produces preen oil. Haha! Still love that parsons nose now?!

Portioning (jointing) a bird is relatively easy:

1. You will need a sharp filleting knife and a sturdy pair of kitchen shears.

2. Cut through the loose skin between the leg and breast, and loosen the legs, pulling away from the bird (but not completely).

3. With the chicken upright, cut along one side of the backbone, with the shears, as close to the bone as possible, pulling the breast away as you cut. Repeat on the other side.

4. Cut down through the wing socket to separate the breast from the carcass. Repeat on the other side.

5. Slice off the wings from the breasts, leaving you with chicken fillets and wings.

6. Turn the bird over onto its front (breast side down) and cut in around the thigh bone at the socket to remove the leg joints.

7. You can either leave the legs whole or cut in half to get drumsticks and thighs.

8. You should now have 2 chicken fillets, 2 chicken wings, 2 chicken thighs, 2 chicken drumsticks and the remaining carcass can be used to create a lovely stock.

Here is a good video to demonstrate. Anyway, feel free to use whatever cuts you like, but I prefer to buy the whole chicken.

My son and I made this recipe up as I had plenty of lemons and I remembered an old Belgian recipe from Wivine de Stoop, who’s cookbook I no longer had. Hers certainly didn’t have olives in it, but we thought it was a good addition!


2kg whole chicken, cut into pieces

1 lemon, thickly sliced with peel on

2 lemons, zest & juice

2 sticks celery, sliced

3 cloves garlic

3 tabs olive oil or tallow

1 – 2 tabs rice flour

salt & pepper

70g green olives

350g chicken stock (or water)

4 baby leeks, halved

Generously season the flour with salt & pepper and dust the chicken pieces to coat. You can omit this part, but it does help to thicken the sauce when cooking.

Heat the oil in a large heavy based frying pan or casserole dish and sauté the sliced lemon. Set aside and in the same oil, brown the chicken pieces all over, without cooking through. Add the garlic and celery and brown also.

Add the leeks, stock, zest and lemon juice and bake for about 35 minutes, covered at 170°C. Add the olives and sautéed lemon slices; check to see how much longer the chicken needs to cook. It will depend on the size and cut of the pieces. I baked mine for another 10 minutes with the lid off to reduce. Taste for seasoning and serve with winter mash or steamed rice and broccoli.

* After doing 12 months of anatomy & physiology in my late teens, I couldn’t joint a chicken for months!!

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