To my mind, we have only marketing to blame for the rise in popularity of near-meatless chicken wings, and the decline (demise?) of the “pulley bone,” the most delectable morsel on a yard bird. At the Sunday fried-chicken dinners of my youth, no one wanted the wings, but we would come close to fisticuffs over the pulley bone. What is it? That moist, tender breast meat surrounding the clavicle—“wishbone”—and if you butcher your own chicken, you can have one too. If you don’t have a deep-sided cast-iron skillet with a lid, use a 5-quart lidded stockpot.
1 whole (3- to 4-pound) organic chicken
3 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 1/2 to 2 pints good-quality lard, for frying (see “Praise the Lard,” page 44 of “The Field to Table Cookbook”)
Miss Grace’s Buttermilk Biscuits (see recipe, page 47 of “The Field to Table Cookbook”)
For the milk gravy:
1/4 cup pan drippings from the fried chicken (with some of the browned bits)
1/2 cup organic all-purpose flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups organic whole milk
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Rinse and dry the chicken, inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Use game shears to remove the chicken’s backbone, starting at the cavity opening and working up to the neck on either side of the backbone. Reserve the backbone for stock.
Pull one leg away from the body and bend it downward until the thigh joint pops. Work your knife tip around the joint to remove the thigh and leg, then find the thigh/leg joint, work your knife around it first to sever the ligaments, and cut into two separate pieces. Do the same on the other side. Bend a wing backward to locate the joint and detach it the same way; repeat on other side.
For the pulley bone: Turn the chicken breast side up on your cutting board, and use your forefinger along the top centerline to find the tip end of the wishbone. Use a chef’s knife to cut straight down through the breast just behind that; when your knife hits bone, change the angle so that the blade slides forward between the breastbone and the meat, and under the two ends of the wishbone. Voilà! The pulley bone!
Separate the breast into two halves by scoring down the centerline of the breastbone, then cutting through both the meat and the bone. Rinse the 9 chicken pieces thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels. Set the chicken parts on a wire rack over a baking sheet to dry; have a second wire rack handy for the cooked chicken. Preheat the oven to 200° F.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until uniform in color. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a deep-sided cast-iron skillet, or stockpot, add
enough lard to reach a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Have both a meat thermometer and a candy thermometer (for the fat) handy. Turn the heat to high under the skillet and bring the oil temperature to 350° F; adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature between 350 and 375° F throughout the process.
Working in batches, coat only the pieces that will immediately fit in the skillet. Using one hand for the egg and the other for the flour, dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour mixture, then dip it in the egg to coat, dredge it again in the flour mixture, and add it to the hot lard.
Partially cover the skillet with the lid and cook the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, turning several times, until light golden brown on each side. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, turning each piece once, until they are a medium golden brown. Remove to the clean wire rack and check that the internal temperature next to the bone of the thickest piece is 165° F. Cook the remaining chicken in batches.
Serve immediately, or hold in the warm oven for up to 15 minutes while you prepare the gravy.
Make the milk gravy: Transfer the drippings and any scraped-up bits from the bottom of the frying skillet to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, or saucepan, over medium heat, and slowly sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute, until the mixture begins to turn golden, then slowly add the milk, stirring continuously.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the gravy is thick and bubbly. Season with the Tabasco sauce, salt, and pepper. Yields about 3 cups. Serve in a gravy boat or a small bowl with a ladle alongside the chicken and biscuits.
Yields 6 half-pints
About a gallon ZipLoc bag of rebud blossoms
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
5 teaspoons Pomona Pectin© calcium water
5 teaspoons Pomona Pectin© pectin powder
2 1/2 cups organic sugar
Rinse and drain the redbud blossoms, and pick out any wooden stems and bugs. Pack loosely into a half-gallon container with a tightly fitting lid and cover completely with boiling water. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve or double cheesecloth in the morning, pressing lightly with a wooden spoon (don’t squeeze too hard, or you will get a bitter flavor). Add water, if necessary, to make 5 cups redbud juice. Pour into a large stockpot, and add the lemon juice and calcium water.
Prepare your hot-water-bath canner, and wash 6 half-pint jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water. When the canner begins to boil, put the jars in it so they stay hot. Heat the lids and bands in a small saucepan; do not boil.
Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a small bowl, and stir thoroughly to blend. Bring the juice to a full boil over high heat, then drift in the sugar/pectin mixture a bit at a time, stirring vigorously. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a second boil.
Pour into jars, release bubbles with a plastic spatula, affix lids, and finger-tighten bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let the jars remain in the canner for 5 minutes. Remove them to a folded towel, and let sit overnight to completely set up. Store for up to a year in a cool, dark place.