Chickens and eggs

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When I wrote about being grateful for our egg-laying chickens this summer, I didn’t think that gratitude could increase. But here I am, doubly thankful. Most winters, our hens drop down to an egg or two a day – or stop laying altogether. So far this winter, the hens Daphne raised for 4-H have continued to provide us with all the eggs we need. I think we owe it to the breed of chicken she selected, the relatively mild weather, and the decision to offer a higher protein feed.
I understand all of the contributing factors, but it’s still crazy to see egg prices this high in the store. Now, if one of us drops an egg while collecting or an egg freezes before we do the morning pick, it’s worth fussing about.
Daphne plans to keep providing us with eggs. Her 2023 chicks will be here in a couple weeks.
Dan pre-ordered his market chickens already, too. He learned a good lesson about baby chick supply and demand last summer – he almost wasn’t able to get chicks in time for our county fair.
Helping him with the order was a good reminder for me to make more chicken. I’ve said countless times that market chickens are the tastiest 4-H project. But in order for us to maintain freezer space, I need to roast a chicken at least once every two weeks. And since they take a couple days to thaw and then a couple days to fully consume, I feel like I’m in a constant chicken rotation. Little did I know that birds raised in six weeks are really a year-round endeavor – at least from the chef’s perspective.
After four years of our kids raising and showing market chickens, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to roast a chicken. (I had never roasted a whole chicken prior.) My go-to method now is to spatchcock the chicken and roast it on a baking sheet. (We freeze the chickens whole.) The wings and legs disappear right away, but we usually have some breast meat left over. (We wait until the market chickens are extra large before processing them – a grocery-store rotisserie-sized whole chicken is barely enough for one meal.)
A day or two later, I pull any leftover breast off the carcass and make chicken stock from the carcass and bones. If I need a quick dinner, I’ll turn the chicken breast into chicken Alfredo. Otherwise I save it to use with the chicken stock. After the stock is done, I glean the carcass for all of the remaining bits of meat. I always feel very old-fashioned picking through the carcass, but that timeless manta of ‘waste not, want not’ makes it worthwhile.
Then I turn the stock, gleaned chicken, and leftover breast into a second chicken meal. For years, this was always some sort of chicken soup. Then I decided I needed to try something new, so I started using the chicken stock to make rice. I measure the stock, add the appropriate amount of dry brown rice, and get delicious rice that’s packed with all of the nourishing goodness of the stock.
Hands down, our favorite way to eat chicken-stock rice is to combine it with the leftover chicken to make chicken fried rice. It’s delicious, nutritious, and, since it’s made with both chicken and eggs, the best recipe for a family involved in the 4-H poultry project.
Fried rice is a lot like hotdish – the possible variations are limited only by your imagination and, I suppose, your palate. Sauté any other veggies you like and add to the dish: a small onion, spinach, bell peppers, cabbage – just be sure they’re finely diced. Throw in some leftover roasted broccoli or cauliflower. Switch out the chicken for pork or beef roast – or use a combination of meats. Any way you make it, it’s amazing.

Chicken fried rice

6 tablespoons butter, divided
6 eggs
3 cups cold cooked rice*
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
12 oz bag of frozen peas and carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)
2 tablespoons dried chives or green onions**
2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
Salt

*I use short grain brown rice, cooked in chicken stock, then refrigerated overnight. The rice must be cold.
**You can use 2-3 fresh green onions if you have them. In a pinch, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder will work, too.
Preheat oven to 175 or 200 degrees — the lowest your oven will go. Set a large cake or roasting pan in oven. Cook frozen vegetables in microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes — they just need to be thawed, not hot.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Once butter is sizzling, crack eggs into skillet, sprinkle with salt, and stir until well scrambled. You want them to be little egg bits, not fluffy breakfast-style scrambled eggs. Transfer scrambled eggs to roasting pan and set pan in oven.
Return skillet to burner, add 2 tablespoons butter, and increase heat to medium. Once butter is starting to brown, add rice to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until rice is hot and some of the rice has browned. Transfer hot rice to roasting pan, toss with eggs, and return pan to oven.
Place skillet back on heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Once butter is melted, add diced chicken, veggies and garlic. Cook and stir until heated through. Transfer veggies and chicken to roasting pan and toss with eggs and rice. Add chives and soy sauce to mixture and toss again. Serve immediately with additional soy sauce, if desired.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, Monika, and Daphne. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com

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