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Cooking with Roosters, Laying Hens and Eggs

Stacy Harris collecting eggs from the chickens

Stacy Harris collecting eggs from the chickens

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!!

11 responses to “Cooking with Roosters, Laying Hens and Eggs”

  1. Tim H. Martin says:

    Stacy, I’m sure your version is much better than mine, especially the broth portion. Reading your description makes me want to find a tough, cranky old rooster and put him in a pot. I bet the butcher at Winn Dixie looks at me funny when I ask for one!


    • Stacy Harris says:

      Hey Tim! Your Dumplings were outstanding! I like to freeze the broth in ice cube trays and use it for soups. The flavor is impossible to match with the old roosters and hens.

  2. Linda O'Connor says:

    Oh, gosh, this is terrible–two good cooks talking about two good recipes and it’s too early in the day to even think about eating!
    My grandma raised chickens and sold eggs and roped her grandkids into helping, and roosters were her favorite things to stew or turn into chicken and dumplings, but that would be he Midwestern version of a dumpling–biscuit batter dropped in the simmering stuff.

    • Stacy Harris says:

      How fun is that! One of my kids, the 6 year old, would spend all day with the chickens if I would let her. I would love to compare the Midwestern version with this version.

      • Frank says:

        Hi, Stacy, how do you slaughter a rooster? is there a best way to do it? there are so many opinions.

        • Stacy Harris says:

          Hi Frank! You are right. There are so many options, but we feel that it is the most humane way to slaughter with one quick blow with a sharp ax while securely holding the chicken and its legs underneath your arm over a block of wood. Tilt the chicken horizontally and it will naturally extend its neck. If you have a lot of chickens, it would be helpful to have a cone that you could drop the chicken in head first. The head will be sticking out of the small end of the funnel and its body will be secured by the rest of the funnel. In this way many chickens can be quickly processed. Many people feel that you should string them up so that the blood drains from them making them less tough, but I find this method the easiest and quickest.

  3. jackie says:

    Hi, I would like to raise heritage chickens for both meat and egg laying. I’m considering the Buff Orpington or the RIR. Do you raise meat birds and if so what kind do you raise? Also, is that a RIR that you’re carrying in the picture? Thanks!

    • Stacy Harris says:

      Yes, that is a Rhode Island Red in the picture with me. I love my Rhode Island Reds. The Buff Orpingtons are escape artists at our home!! We do not exclusively raise chickens for meat, but we do eat our older non-layers and our roosters. I try not to get too attached to them. The more chickens that you have the better you will feel about that. If you prepare these birds properly, they will give you succulent table fare! I want to write about that very soon. I will try to get to it asap. Most of the chickens we have are heritage breeds. They are great layers.

  4. Shelli Abbott of Abbott Garlic and Poultry says:

    Wow! So nice to run across others of a like mind. I was looking around the www for a recipe for Coq au Vin for my more affluent Farmer’s Market customers to apply to the old roosters I will be offering. I think I’ll have to include Rooster and Dumplings as well. We also enjoy these older birds as “pulled” BBQ or like a Manhattan over potatoes and fresh home-made bread. Also the kids eat it well as taco meat. I just use a pressure cooker and then pull the meat off. I freeze the broth if I don.t need it at the time. We have arround 150-200 hens at a time and find that the Buff Ops get picked on by the P. Rocks and RIRs. If only raising Buff Ops, they do make very nice stewing hens when it is time for that. I think the RIRs and P. Rocks are better layers. We breed and hatch our own and defintely lean toward the Rocks ( white, barred, and partriage).

    • Stacy Harris says:

      I am so glad to meet you. Yes, I agree with with you on the Chicken Bullies! I do find that the Barred Rocks are great layers and they are quite tasty. I do hope that your customers will like the Roosters in Dumplings. Let them know about my site. Also, that recipe is in my new book that will be released in June, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living. My last book, Happy Healthy Family Tracking the Outdoors In, has a great recipe for pheasant, but would be equally great with old hens. Lets keep in touch!

  5. Alisa says:

    Sounds so good! How can I get the recipe? I’ve got some old hens that would be perfect for this.

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