Mel Gibson has left the building. (heading directly to the chicken coop)

6 weeks ago, give or take couple of days, I picked up a small flock of day old chicks. You couldn’t even call them a flock at that point. They were more of a flick of a flock.

(Possibly) Mel Gibson as a day old chick with consort.

I decided to house them in my studio/basement until they were ready to move to their permanent home in the chicken coop. We had several reasons for using this strategic location:
a) it was out of the way
b) I could control the type and amount of traffic i.e. we have 6 cats and 2.75 dogs (don’t ask)
c) I wouldn’t have to travel too far to get to them if need arose

For the most part, their individual temperaments had shown through from day one. And those traits only grew stronger as the days passed. The skittish ones didn’t get braver, the bossy ones refined their technique and the curious, inquisitive ones kept drawing to mind the Monty Python quote: “…that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep.”

Their feathers and beak coloring began to come in at about 2 weeks. It was at that point that I began to notice one of the cockerels. Mostly because he was incredibly reckless and stupidly brave. And the pullets, like swooning adolescent fans, seemed to adore him.

I started calling him Mel Gibson right after he did a Brave Heart run across the small pen at me and my American Dingo dog, Sunny Boy Red. He had perceived some threat to his flock. And no matter that we were dozens of times his size and that one of us has a set of rather pointed canines, he charged us like he was going to kick our collective butts.

All of this bluster earned a fair bit of admiration from yours truly. I’m all about the Berserker method as a form of self-defense. Even so, it drew into focus a series of rather pointed political questions on the wisdom of having a charismatic, reckless rooster in charge of the hens you are counting on for eggs.

Yes, he could protect them; from snakes and probably from the cats, if need be. But if he somehow discovered or devised an escape from his confines, would he lead the girls into an overwhelmingly dangerous situation?

Most likely yes. And so, it looked like Mel Gibson was slated for the chopping block.

We had planned for this eventuality; getting a few more chicks than we actually needed. One has to face the harsh fact that, sometimes, some of them just don’t make it to adulthood. Some of them are deformed, or picked on to the point of needing to be removed, or sometimes you get a rooster that goes “cockeyed”. In other words, he becomes dangerously unmanageable.

I had figured, all along, that one of the 2 cockerels would be more suited to keeping the kind of flock I felt would bring us mutual benefit. And I was pretty sure Mel wasn’t that guy. He didn’t seem unmanageable, just a little…edgy.

But, luckily for Mel, one of my kin decided a couple of chickens would be just the thing. So, happy ending, Mel and 3 of his ardent admirers will be moving house in the next few weeks.

I had planned to put everybody in our chicken run last week. They were 5 weeks old and all feathered in. The weather was quite warm, in the 80’s on a couple of days. But with temperatures dipping to 32 degrees and a late snow coming in, I hesitated in making that drastic a change to their environs.

But the natives were getting restless. Mel had gotten in the habit of perching on top of the watering tray, and pooping in it. It was the highest point in the pen and evidently that’s the cockerel version of “Look, I’m driving an expensive sports car”.

I responded by rigging a cap made of takeout trays that was taller and wider than he could negotiate. No more poo in the water. Issue resolved.

The problem with reckless and clever creatures who are also bored is they soon figure out a way to hack your hack. Soon, I was coming in to find the water tray overturned and a bunch of thirsty, slightly freaked-out chickens.

Mel Gibson in the Chicken Run on the Watering Tray in Question

But I only had to buck up til this weekend and they would be more than old enough to deal with any weather swings. Being in the midst of a pollen-induced sinus attack had me bed-ridden and in no mood for moving house and clearing the basement.

Mel Gibson wasn’t waiting that long.

Here is how I imagine it went down:
Mel got bored. He decided to show off for the girls by perching on the water tray. The tray tipped over, as usual, and somebody completely freaked out. This freaked everybody else out and although this wasn’t  The Station, somebody bum rushed the “door”, tipping the fencing, increasing the panic and setting the fully feathered flock into flight.

So, this morning, I rouse myself, drag my 50 lb head out of the bed and stumble down to the studio. I open the door and find that the pen has been “deconstructed” and there are chickens all over the basement. Subsequently there is poo all over the basement.

I stand stock still doing a head count. I hear hidden peeps from beneath furniture, from behind buckets, but the majority of the flock are in plain sight.

I open the dog crate I’ve been using to house them while I clean the pen. I start calling softly: “Chicker, chicker, chicker…” Then, I pick up Mel Gibson and put him in the crate.

I’ve found the easiest way to get the flock to co-operate is to press the cockerels into service. If the boys are in one place, the girls will shortly follow.

As soon as all were crated, counted and calm, I walked them over to the chicken run. I took Mel Gibson out, set him on the ground and as he walked off there was a rush out the crate door. Silly girls.

I’m acceding to their decision. They are only 2 days away from being 6 weeks old. More than old enough to stand a little evening cold. The coop is snug with lots of hay and leaves to snuggle down in. They should have no problems.

Besides, I can always run a lamp out there if I get too worried.

 

Mel Gibson assessing the threat level.

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Chicken Breast Strips crusted in Fresh Basil, Almond Flour and Brined Green Peppercorns

(a gluten free recipe)

You know how these things go.

This started out as black cracked pepper on Chicken Strips, but I realized I had some fresh basil. You really have to keep the basil pinched back or it heads off and gets leggy, fast! Half of it is already flowering; which tells you that in addition to being a lazy cook, I’m also a rather lazy gardener.

So, it turned into Fresh Basil Chicken Strips.

About mid morning, in the process of transferring the 48 ounces of Duke’s Mayonnaise (the ONLY mayonnaise, in my humble opinion and no, I WISH they were giving me a kickback) from the wretched plastic containers they’ve started using (what the hell were they thinking?) to mason jars I had to find some room in the over-packed fridge and came across a jar with about a cup of almond flour.

The Lazy Cook is allergic to casein and the Mister has a family history of Celiacs Disease; with some degree of sub-clinical symptoms, so almond milk and rice milk are the creamy beverages of choice.

Rice Milk is fairly easy to find and not as expensive as the less available (in a small southern town) almond, so I bought some in bulk and put it back. It has come in handy for the Chard Almond Loaf.

So, as it is with the Lazy Cook, it turned into Chicken Strips crusted with Fresh Basil and Almond Flour.

Then I found the brined green peppercorns……

The Lazy Cook is an adventurous eater. And there is a fantastic Hmong Market in the city nearby. They carry all the standard Asian foodstuff, plus the in-store kitchen makes treats like the “rice bombs” (as we call them) wrapped in fresh bamboo leaves. But I digress.

Initially I picked up the brined green pepper corns because they looked interesting. That’s it. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They’re from Thailand, out of Bangkok via Chicago. Go figure.

The flavor is an interesting mix of green citrus zing from the immature corns, with the expected spice of pepper and a slow heat that lingers on the lips and tongue for a bit; and obviously the salt.

I am pretty sure that the citrus notes from the peppercorns will play nicely off the smoother, deeper basil flavors. We shall see.

So, in the end, it became Chicken Breast Strips crusted in Fresh Basil, Almond Flour and Brined Green Peppercorns.

Here’s the plan:

Once the chicken is thawed, I’ll pat it dry with a paper towel after setting the oven to 350.

While the oven is heating up, I’ll brush on some of the basil mayonnaise I made this morning (which started this whole mess) and roll the strips in a mixture of almond flour, chopped fresh basil and slightly crushed green peppercorns.

Sorry the only measurement I can really give you is a cup of almond flour to a pound of meat. The basil mayo is just a suggestion. Any oil will do: olive, coconut, lard. Or leave damp with the juices if you are watching the cals. (Me? I scoff at cals)

With the fresh chopped basil, I’d stick with around 1/8 cup. Dried, I’d use a couple of tablespoons.

Not all of us have a Hmong market nearby, so pepper on-hand options: powdered black- to taste, but I’d say about 1 generous tablespoon. Coming to the South from the Northern regions, the Mister said he’d never seen so much black pepper used in his life.  And to keep the citrus note, sprinkle a little lemon or lime juice on before coating it.

Cracked pepper, use more, but keep it coarse.

With the green, I’ll end up using about 2 tablespoons.

Because I want this to remain fairly “dry” (rather than sitting in the “broth” the chicken processors inject into the meat) I’ll space it out on a baking sheet (or tin foil or one of those enameled pans with the raised center panel….whatever you’ve got on hand) With just the thinnest dab of grease so it doesn’t stick.

Cook for 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven type, altitude and so on. But check it after 20 to test for doneness vs. dryness.

I’ll serve this with white rice and some black-eyed peas I made up for the Barley-SouthWest Salad (which the Mister found quite tasty) and a fresh sliced tomato topped with a dab of basil mayo. I’ve got some young carrots from the garden. I might steam them slightly, roast them in some coconut oil then toss them in a slightly sweet wheat-free tamari (also courtesy of the Hmong market) while the chicken is cooking.

If I had my druthers, as we are want to say in these parts, I’d use brown rice, skip the legumes and have a cucumber, onion and tomato salad, from today’s garden pickin’s or use a green veg instead; steamed Asparagus with garlic butter springs to mind. But, alas….

As with all the Lazy Cooks recipes, there are no guarantees. Only adventure.

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