Removing The Backbone of a Chicken

By Christopher Hirsheimer

Published on October 18, 2000

Living deep in the Pennsylvania countryside has many charms, but it also means a long drive to the nearest market for my weekend shopping. One of the payoffs is that once I get to my favorite grocery store in Silverdale, I can always get free-range, organic, Amish-grown chickens. I always buy several. My friend Pam Anderson, author of The Perfect Recipe (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), knows her stuff, and taught me a great trick for dealing with the birds: Using poultry shears, she removes the chicken's back by cutting along both sides of the backbone, thus producing a bird that lies flat—for faster and more even roasting and easier carving. When I get home from shopping, I cut the backs out of my own chickens, then put the backs into a big pot, along with the giblets, some onions and celery, a quart of cold fresh water, some aromatic herbs, a pinch of salt, and a few peppercorns. I bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Two hours later, I have three cups of rich chicken stock. And the backless chickens? I roast one (perhaps rubbed with fennel pollen, according to the recipe Fennel Pollen Roasted Chicken) and seal the others, backless, in plastic bags and stack them neatly in my freezer. As for Pam Anderson, she has a new book out, How to Cook Without a Book (Broadway Books, $25), sharing more of her kitchen know-how.

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