Real Cooking

“A good many things taste like chicken except, nowadays, chicken-which tastes like damp cardboard” -Waverley Root

It takes a lot to get me pumped about a new product, so I guess that’s why I can’t stop talking about Smart Chicken.

Boy, does that sound like a commercial or what? Well, to be blunt, I don’t care. I really, really like this chicken and I don’t want it to go away from our local marketing area. So I’ve taken it upon myself to spread the word of how great a product Smart Chicken-that’s Smart Chicken-is.

My passion for Smart Chicken began innocently enough. A couple of weeks ago, I needed five fryers to stew in order to make chicken borscht for 200 people. (Don’t ask. It was just one of those things that I had said “yes” to.)

I stopped by Vogt’s IGA to pick up some hens, and noticed that they were featuring a new brand-Smart Chicken.

I recognized the name. This was the company that at one time was interested in moving into Hillsboro. (Not Tyson, like some had reported!) I had been introduced to some of the company’s officers on one of their last visits here, so seeing their product in the meat case just added to my interest.

As I was placing the fryers in my cart, Jerold Vogt came by and we struck up a conversation. He pointed out that the chicken was air chilled so no water is added to the product.

In addition to making the meat better and safer, the packages are easier to handle. How many times have you picked up a dripping bag of bloody, salmonella ridden chicken?

Not with Smart Chicken-their packaging remains dry.

Really, no one is paying me to say these things.

I got home and threw the chickens into the stew pot. About 40 minutes later, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even though I had five chickens cooking, no scum rose to the top of the pot. When I had finished cooking the chicken, all I had was flavorful, tender chicken and clear broth.

It’s true. And I’m not getting kickbacks from Vogt’s or Smart Chicken, either.

The next week I bought Smart Chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts-and they were great. This past week I bought legs and thighs. Wonderful.

Let me tell you about the dark meat pieces. My son and daughter had some friends over for the night and the kids decided they would like fried chicken for supper. Feeling guilty for not having fed my family anything decent for a while, I gave in and trotted off to Vogt’s, knowing they had chicken legs on sale.

I brought the Smart Chicken legs home and, even though I would never in the past fried chicken without soaking it overnight to draw out the blood, I went ahead and prepared the chicken for frying.

I was amazed. No blood was oozing from the bones, the meat was firm, the color excellent. The chicken was delicious and the kids ate and ate, declaring it better than Kentucky Fried.

Poor kids, they hadn’t ever had fresh-tasting chicken before.

But I’m not the only one in our house who is impressed by this chicken. You might not know this, but my husband was at one time a nationally ranked chicken judge. OK, it was in high school FFA competition, but in any event the man knows his chickens.

(This is a story in itself, how both my husband and his brother, Clyde, were champion chicken judges even though they grew up on a dairy farm. The credit for their expertise has to go to their FFA sponsor, Truman Diener.)

Anyway, the chicken judge has said he doesn’t care if the Smart Chicken costs a little more than the other birds available, he wants the better product on his table.

No, members of the Hillsboro Development Corporation aren’t influencing us in any way.

I remember reading one of those little anecdotes that readers send in to a column in Taste of Home magazine that tells of funny things kids say and do. One grandmother submitted a story about how her grandson, upon sitting down to a fried-chicken dinner that she had prepared, hadn’t known what a drumstick was. The child, having grown up with chicken nuggets and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, had never seen a piece of chicken with a bone in it.

Probably because his mother didn’t want to mess with the yellow, fatty, bloody chickens that fill her meat case. But now that there’s Smart Chicken….

Sorry, I just really, really like this chicken.

* * *

The other night, at a gathering hosted by Pam and Doug Bartel, Susie Kliewer told us about a marvelous new recipe that her coworker, Geraldine Hett, had given to her for roast chicken.

Susie reported the recipe was a great success. Even her husband, Glen, who isn’t that fond of chicken, enjoyed this new variation of an old classic.

The recipe, Susie explained, involved roasting a whole chicken while sitting on a can of beer. The chicken sat on the beer, Susie didn’t. Let’s make that perfectly clear. Actually, Susie didn’t have any beer, so she substituted a can of Coke.

In any event, the chicken turned out crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside, which is the perfect outcome for a roasted chicken whether it’s sitting on a can or not.

Chicken on a Throne

One whole chicken

3 Tbs. each of salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar, mixed together

One can of beer or cola, half full (what you do with the other half is your own business)

Wash and pat dry a chicken, then rub inside and out with the brown sugar mixture. Place the can of beer or soda in the center of a large pan and “sit” the chicken on top, resting the legs on the bottom of the pan. (The can is inserted into the cavity of the chicken, so the bird is sitting upright in the pan. Get the picture?) Bake at 350 for two hours.

When Susie gave me the recipe, she said that two tablespoons of the rub ingredients was enough to cover the chicken she used, so adjust accordingly.

You might want to cut back on the pepper if that flavor doesn’t appeal to your family.

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