Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Tale of Five Breasts

by Bill Holmes

Did I get your attention? I know that's an odd number of breasts, but it is not what you think. This is neither a pornographic post not one about freakish mammary abnormalities. It is about the most recent package of chicken breasts I purchased at my local grocery emporium.

I usually buy chicken breasts in packages of four to six per plastic wrapped Styrofoam tray (with absorbent liner) when it is on sale. Let me digress, I know a chicken breast technically consists of a left and right half. That being said, most people, grocery stores and restaurants mean a half breast (left or right) when they say a chicken breast. I too am referring to a half breast when using the term chicken breast. Human breasts come in pairs and I am a human. One left, one right. Clear?
Absorbent Meat Liner

I always trim, optionally marinate, and cook the whole package at one time. Now that I live alone I usually freeze all but one breast after they are cooked. That's the way I've done it for years. Of course the number of breasts frozen depends on the number of other mouths around. The cooked chicken is thawed as I need it for meals. Skin is not welcomed unless it is fried which I never do at home. I am also adverse to any fat on my chicken. That's probably because the majority of it is eaten cold on a salad. Cold fat is not appetizing to me.

No fat or skin allowed means I'm a pretty thorough trimmer. Don't get upset, there is no waste. Every bit of trimmings is saved, frozen and used for  stock or is it broth. I can never remember which is which. Every couple of months I gather all the chicken scraps, some vegetables, herbs, spices and maybe any leftover wine and dump it in a big pot. Sometimes I have to drink a half bottle of wine while I'm preparing the other ingredients so I'll have some leftover wine for the stock. I wholeheartedly recommend making your own stock, chicken, turkey or beef. I even made lamb stock recently. It's cheap, flavored the way you want with spices and veggies and is not full of sodium (unless you want it to be) and unpronounceable chemicals. A crock pot is another good way to prepare stock.

So, back to the breasts in question. I bought a package that had five breasts totaling about 4½ pounds. Good sized breasts. I opened the package, grabbed the first one and began trimming. It was a beautiful breast. A little above average in size, firm, hardly any fat and no wrinkled or saggy skin. I thought to myself, it looks like I have got my hands on a great bunch of breasts. Unfortunately the first breast was the best breast. The next one was a little smaller and more flabby but not bad. The next two were gigantic but had their flaws folded under the firm smooth top center They both had a lot of excess fat and one had a large piece of wrinkly rough skin hidden on the bottom. Maybe it had been out in the sun too long without sunblock. The butcher/packager had hidden the best for last. It was humongous. OK, size isn't everything in breasts. This one had all kinds of fat, gristle, silverskin slime and bad rib meat hanging off it. My first thought was maybe they threw a rooster breast into the package. Once I got through hacking it up, it looked more like a chicken than a rooster. I also wound up with over a half a sandwich bag of scraps for my next batch of stock. All five breasts are now marinating in my fridge. They are destined for the oven tomorrow.

I'm writing this because it is sometimes aggravating the way stuff is packaged. Food is almost always packaged with the good side showing and the bad side hidden. With some products, like fresh beef or fish in the butcher/fish monger case, you can ask to see the other side and even smell it. With other products like chicken or bacon it is almost always hermetically sealed. Something is almost always being hidden. You have to have some trust in your food purveyor and/or your experience.

Today I thought I got a good rack package of breasts at an establishment I often frequent. It just proves that you can't always judge a breast by it's package. Sometimes they are bigger than you think although usually they are a little smaller. People have been working on the packaging of breasts for centuries.

So, until there are more stringent truth in advertising laws it will remain hit and miss. You can never be sure of the size, firmness, makeup (real or enhanced), fat content, etc. of the breasts you get at the supermarket. Even the packaging often states that the breasts are enhanced with up to 15% additives. I'm sure the ones I have in the fridge will turn out fine. I don't think I've ever had a breast I didn't like. You just have to open the packaging and get your hands on them to be sure.

Be careful what you grab.


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