Cooking with Roosters, Laying Hens and Eggs is a time old tradition and one that I am excited to pass on to my children. I have been having fun working hard on the Roosters, Old Laying Hens, and Egg chapter of the new cookbook. One of my favorite recipes that my entire family devoured this weekend was the Rooster and Dumplings recipe! One of my “foodie” friends, Tim Martin, shared his Chicken and Dunklin recipe with me in which I adapted to work with Roosters and Laying Hens. The recipe is so good that Tim’s son at the age of three emptied his first bowl of the Dumplings and cried, “More Dunklins Daddy!” Hence the name of his recipe!
Roosters and laying hens need quite different treatment than that of your average grocery store chicken. Laying hens have a good 2 years of producing eggs. As these hens roam free and scratch for insects, they gain muscle and connective tissue which produce incredible body in stews, dumplings, and broth because it melts into collagen as you cook it slowly. The flavor is exceptional and if you have never had it, you must try it.
The three major components to tender domestic poultry is to age the poultry in the refrigerator for at least 3 days (I leave it for 5 days and put it on a rack not letting it sit in any blood.), braise it on low heat for a very long time (3-5 hours), and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight if time permits. On average, I stew my laying hens and roosters about 3 times as long as the quick growing young roasting chickens.
Truly the broth from these old birds cannot be matched. I had the best batch of Rooster and Dumplings I have ever had on Saturday . Instead of waiting to use my poultry for the winter, I am going to take advantage even in the summer, of every laying hen that has stopped earning her keep and every rooster that shows even the tiniest bit of meanness and their destiny is going to be to fill my plate and then my stomach!!