Preparing Pieces

 

Poultry is immensely versatile: it can be cut into suprêmes and escalopes for pan-frying, chargrilling, stuffing and poaching as well as into strips for stir-frying. Thighs provide lean chunky pieces for casseroles and kebabs.

MAKING SUPREMES

These are skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Traditionally, they include the wing bones, but are often prepared without. Although available ready-prepared, preparation at home is more economical. Joint the bird, cutting off both wings but keeping the breasts whole.

1. With your fingers, pull the skin and membrane away from the chicken breast. Discard skin and membrane.

2. Turn the breast over and cut away the rib cage. Remove the tendons from the breast.

3. Turn the breast over, skinned-side up, and trim away fat and rough edges. The supreme is now ready.

 

REMOVING THE TENDONS

There are two tendons in a chicken breast, one in the small fillet and one in the main breast. Removing them is not essential, but it does make for easier slicing and eating. In step 2, the main sinew is removed prior to slicing strips for stir-frying.

1. Pull away the small fillet. Cut out the tendon with a chef's knife.

2. Cut away the tendon from the breast, using a cleaver or chef's knife.

 

MAKING ESCALOPES

A chicken breast provides two escalopes, a turkey breast, three or more. Escalopes can be pan-fried plain or coated, chargrilled, or made into pinwheels.

1. Remove the skin and tendons. Split in half horizontally with a knife.

2. Place each piece of chicken between two sheets of baking parchment. Pound all over with a rolling pin until flattened.

 

PREPARING POULTRY & GAME LIVERS

Poultry livers and those of some fresh game birds can be gently sautéed and served on toast or with dressed salad leaves; they are also very good in pâtés and terrines.

Poultry livers consist of smooth lobes surrounded by membranes and sinews. Trim the livers, removing all tubes, membrane and fine, stringy sinews that would be unpleasant in the mouth. Remove the gall bladder and cut away any dark brown or yellowish patches around it.

CUTTING POULTRY FOR STIR-FRYING

Poultry meat is ideal for stir-frying because it cooks rapidly, quickly becomes tender and marries well with the strong flavours of Asian cooking. Skinless, boneless breast o f chicken, turkey and duck are most often used, and the strips marinated to heighten flavour. For the technique of stir-frying poultry.

Trim the breasts of any fat and remove the tendons. Put the breasts between two sheets of baking parchment and pound with the flat side of a cleaver. Remove the paper and thinly slice the breasts, working diagonally across the grain of the meat.

PREPARING THIGH MEAT FOR KEBABS

Thigh meat is good for kebabs as it is firmer than breast. A marinade adds flavour and moisture - soaked at least an hour before cooking, preferably overnight. Another trick is to leave the skin on for cooking, then remove it just before serving.

1. Remove the skin. Cut the flesh from one end of the thigh bone. Lift the bone and scrape away the flesh. Cut the bone from the meat.

2. Cut the thigh into large pieces, across the grain of the meat. Cut away any sinew or bone that may be attached to the meat.

3. Marinate the meat if you like, then fold the pieces in half and thread on to skewers. Alternate the meat with cubed or sliced vegetables, to add colour and make the meat go further.

 

PREPARING A WHOLE BREAST OF DUCK

The breasts are the best part of the duck. They are long, thick, meaty and boneless, and can be pan-fried, roasted, grilled or chargrilled whole and carved crosswise into neat, elegant slices to serve. The french word magret is used to describe any duck breast, although it originally only related to Barbary duck. Breasts can be cut from a whole duck (before it is jointed) using a boning knife, or can be bought ready-cut. They are not usually skinned.

1. Trim away the rough edges of skin from the duck breast. Turn the breast on to its skin and trim away the tendon from the flesh with a boning knife.

2. Score a diamond pattern in the skin. This makes it more attractive for serving, and helps release fat during cooking.

 

GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN

Meat that is cut "cross-grain" as the Chinese call it, has three advantages: a greater cut surface area is exposed to the heat making cooking very quick; long fibres are cut which makes the flesh more tender; and the strips hold their shape during cooking.