How to Cook a Rooster
The other day I was involved in the shechita (kosher slaughter) of two heritage-breed roosters that lived wonderful lives running around the fields at the Boulder JCC. Immediately afterwards I went to my landlady’s house and she served — get ready for it! — braised chicken with lemons and olives. I liked it so much that I obsessed over it for days, looked up the recipe, and became very attached to the idea of cooking one of the roosters with lemons and olives.
I have been warned that heritage birds are not to be cooked willy nilly like any chicken; their meat is quite tough, so people often use it for soups, or they invent things like coq au vin. My thinking was that rooster meat is probably like any tough cut of meat: If you cook it high and fast (think roasting, grilling, searing), it’ll get tough, chewy, and dry, and you’ll swear you’ll never eat it again. But cook it slow and low (braise, stew, crockpot) it’ll probably get tender to the point of falling off the bone and melt in your mouth and you’ll never want to eat anything else ever again. (And you will have a very strong price advantage over all the people who refuse to learn to cook anything but the most expensive cuts of meat.)
So I tried it. And lo, it was GOOD.
Here’s what I did:
Braised Rooster with Lemon and Olives
adapted from David Tanis of The New York Times
Warning: This is one of those recipes that takes a long time to cook. It’s mostly hands-off, but it does need to cook for many hours.
- Half a rooster (any chicken would probably work) — You want it cut in half lengthwise, so you have one leg and one wing.
- Salt and Pepper
- One red onion, sliced
- Two cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/2 cup whole pitted Kalamata olives
- 3 lemons, cut into wedges with any obvious seeds scraped out
- 1/2 cup dark beer or red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup water
ONE DAY BEFORE you plan to cook the rooster, place the raw meat in a sealed container, cover it with salty water, close the container, and refrigerate.
HALF AN HOUR BEFORE you plan to cook the rooster, remove it from the water, pat it dry, and put it in an oven-safe pan that fits it comfortably. Preheat the oven to 400.
Dust the rooster with salt and pepper on both sides. Take all of your lemon wedges, give each one a gentle squeeze over the bird, and place them on and under the meat. Sprinkle with sliced garlic and let rest 30 minutes.
Bake 15 minutes at 400. Lower oven temperature to 275.
Remove from the oven, and put the sliced onions, capers, and olives on and around the meat. Pour the wine or beer, stock, and water in the pan around the chicken. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 4 hours, or until meat is tender and begins to fall off the bone.
The one thing I'd do differently next time:
About 20 minutes before serving, take about 2 cups of the juices out of the pan and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Pour this over each serving.