Poultry

78/365: National Poultry Day

You’re a chicken if you don’t celebrate today’s food holiday, and you’d better duck or I’ll goose you, ya turkey! No need to cry fowl. In case you hadn’t guessed, March 19th is National Poultry Day.

And also, 5 Puns For The Price Of 1 Day.

Chicken is the most popular type of poultry, and accounts for 20% of the world’s protein. Descended from the Red Jungle Fowl, a small Southeast Asian pheasant, chickens (and ducks, geese, and pigeons) were first domesticated in China 3000 years ago. Surprisingly, they weren’t bred for their meat or eggs, but were used instead for cockfighting, a popular sport that spread throughout Asia and Europe. Little did they know how delicious those birds taste smothered in sweet ‘n sour sauce! Eventually, humans became too “civilized” to allow cockfighting to continue, and Colonel Harlan Sanders needed to go in a different direction to revive his fledgling Kentucky Fried Goat franchise, so a new use for poultry was discovered. Europe sent chickens to America and we gave them turkeys (by turkeys I mean large birds that are popular at Thanksgiving, not Ashton Kutcher films). Poultry became popular during World War II when other livestock were scarce, and new storage and distribution methods were developed. While chicken reigns supreme, turkey and duck are also popular, and there is even a trendy meal involving all three: the infamous turducken. Popularized, of course, by John Madden.

Had we thought of this sooner, we would have looked for a turducken. What better way to celebrate National Poultry Day, right? The possibilities were nearly endless already. There are hundreds of chicken and turkey recipes out there. Finally, we decided on chicken tacos, just because it had been awhile since we’d had Mexican food. What can I say? They were muy bien!

Poultry

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18/365: National Peking Duck Day

I’ve always been a fan of duck. Rich and succulent, it’s one of those dishes that I’ll frequently order if it’s on the menu. Unfortunately, there’s no McDuck yet, so I’m stuck with fake rib sandwiches most of the time.

I quack myself up.

Fortunately, today is National Peking Duck Day, giving me an excuse to seek out and enjoy duck. Tara and I were worried about this day early on. Peking Duck is a complicated dish to make, and we weren’t sure where to find it. It’s certainly not on the menu of the local Panda Express. But luckily, Portland is a melting pot of cultures, and a Yelp search gave us the name of a Chinese restaurant that serves it. So, game on!

Peking Duck is the national dish of China, and originated in Peking (now Beijing) during the Imperial Era. It was considered an upper class dish, and was a hit with royalty during the Ming Dynasty. In fact, the dish was partially responsible for mending the rift between China and the U.S. in the 1970s. When Secretary of State Henry Kissinger traveled to China to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai, diplomatic talks were at a standstill until lunch was served. Kissinger was so fond of the Peking Duck, he said, “My boss must try this!” So Richard Nixon was invited to China in 1972, and he too raved over the duck. In fact, the second half of his famous speech was inadvertently drowned out by a passing helicopter and lost to history. “I am not a crook,” Nixon famously declared. “But I would lie, cheat, steal, and eavesdrop all over again for another bite of that delicious Peking duck.”

If only we’d paid closer attention…

"Well, coat me in syrup and hang me on a hook!"

“Well, coat me in syrup and hang me on a hook!”

Peking Duck is made from a breed of duck called the Pekin. It’s a white bird with an orange bill and feet, and was the inspiration for Donald Duck. True story. Unlike the cartoon bird, real Pekin ducks do not wear blue sailor suits (but if they did, they would at least have the decency to put on a pair of pants). WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS NEXT PART IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH OR ON THE FENCE ABOUT BECOMING A VEGETARIAN. Pekin ducks are raised in captivity for exactly 65 days, where they are force-fed 4 meals a day to fatten them up before being slaughtered, plucked, and eviscerated. Air is then pumped beneath the skin to separate it from the fat. The duck is then slathered in syrup and hung on a hook to dry for 24 hours before being roasted. Yummy, huh? Somewhere there is a Sarah McLachlan song waiting to be written.

And for the record, bacon doesn’t just magically appear on your plate, either! Though it would be wonderful if it did…

Authentic Peking Duck in Portland, OR.

Authentic Peking Duck in Portland, OR.

Anyway.

Not in the mood to gut our own bird and hang it from a meat hook (even though there’s a wetlands behind the condo complex and we surely could have pulled this off), we instead drove to a Chinese restaurant in Portland, where we had phoned in an order of Peking Duck to go.

Peking Duck is renowned for its crispy skin and flavorful meat. Sure enough, this place (shout out to Shenzhen) did not disappoint. I thought it was wonderful. Tara, who is not a fan of duck, was unimpressed. Kind of a recurring theme so far, isn’t it? But the tables will be turned on National Watermelon Day. Can’t stand that stuff, and she loves it.

The rest of the meal was good, too. I even made homemade fried rice.

But the duck was, without a doubt, the star of the show.

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12/365: National Curried Chicken Day

It’s nice when American food holidays pay homage to international cuisine. After celebrating tempura earlier in the week, today is National Curried Chicken Day! When many people hear the word “curry” they think spicy. And there are plenty of curry recipes that, like Dirty Harry, pack heat. But curry powder is a fairly tame blend of spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper. It’s got a warm, distinct scent and taste, and is what we used to make our curried chicken recipe today.

But today isn’t “curry” chicken day, it’s “curried” chicken day, and there is a difference. Curried chicken refers to the art of preparation – when you curry a chicken, you’re adding a mixture that includes curry to the chicken. Chicken curry, on the other hand, is made with a curry flavored sauce and typically cooked into a stew. Clear as mud, no?

Curried chicken is very popular in Southeast Asia, and most commonly associated with India. The word curry came from kari, an Indian/Sri Lankan term for meat and vegetables cooked with spices. Archaeologists have found mortars and pestles dating back to 2600 BC; these were used to ground spices such as mustard, fennel, cumin, and tamarind pods for flavoring meat. Members of the East India Trading Company (those guys again!) brought curry powder to Britain in the 17th century, where it was used to spice up leftovers. It proved a great way to liven up day-old bubbles and squeak! Curry has become such a staple in British cuisine that it’s a popular potato chip flavor and pizza topping. The 2013 Mini Cooper automobile features the Union Jack logo, dual racing stripes, and a curry-flavored steering wheel.

Today is a busy day for us. We’ve got an NFL playoff game to watch (go, Broncos!) and a birthday dinner for my dad this evening. Our best option for a curried chicken dish was lunch; I found a recipe for a curried chicken salad lettuce wrap featuring diced chicken, apples, red onion, garlic, mayo, sour cream, and curry powder. It was surprisingly delicious…so much so that we’re declaring this recipe a keeper! Tara isn’t even a fan of chicken salad in general, but loved this one. I think personally it’s been my favorite food challenge so far, and I love that we are expanding our food horizons with recipes we’d probably never even think of trying otherwise!

Curried Chicken Lettuce Wrap

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