What price convenience?
We’re back from our French sojourn, somewhat earlier than planned and in time to wade through my third winter in a row; it’s normally a season I enjoy, but preferably only once a year!
Editor Jo has asked me to stay on for a bit to create chic family food, keeping a keen eye on cost, which is just up my alley. However, it does require us to actually be prepared to do some prep at home; after all, five short minutes spent chopping can literally save you dollars.
Since arriving home, I’m aghast at the price of food, especially protein foods — meat, poultry, cheese etc, which we are told by all health or nutrition agencies to eat lean, small amounts of daily.
Forgetting that the farming industry is enjoying a positive export environment driving up prices especially for lamb, we too must shoulder some responsibility for the increase in price per kilogram for meat cuts, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of chicken.
Every supermarket meat section is laden with chicken in all its guises — organic, free-range, whole, pieces, marinated and stuffed. Portion pieces, squashed together like sardines, on pad-lined polystyrene trays, suffocating under cling film, offer no more inspiration to me than boiled tofu.
Seeking chicken pieces that look like chicken — bone in, skin on, both of which are needed for flavour — is a bit like seeking the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Thigh portions offer the best value and taste for money, so long as you buy them with their flavour enhancing attributes — skin on, and bone in — and, unlike chicken breast, thigh portions tolerate being overcooked a little.
It’s worth noting that most of the fat on a chicken is attached to the skin, and primarily on the skin around the neck area, some distance from the thigh! Once cooked the skin has done its job of protecting the meat, imparting flavour and keeping it moist and tender.
For those averse to crispy chicken skin, lift the jolly stuff off before serving! As for the bone, how hard can it be to cut the meat from a bone? On thigh portions, cooked meat easily falls away from the bone. Buy these portions all prepared and you’ll find them up to three times the price per kilogram, and much poorer for flavour.
It’s more than price. We have extended family whose kids will not eat meat on the bone, after a childhood of only being served well-trimmed boneless chicken. Sadly, beyond missing good flavour, they won’t grow up with memories of fighting their siblings for Mum’s crispy-baked chicken.
More importantly, we lose the opportunity to show our kids some simple culinary skills, maybe even have fun, and we’ll have taught them to buy expensive options, creating waste for our garbage laden planet . . . all bad habits we face with today’s consumerism. What price convenience?