The Search for Coqz Heaumez

When I began making the initial plans for preparing a Coqz Heaumez, one thing was immediately apparent: a whole chicken, with the head included, was needed. Anything else simply would not do Procuring a pig was no problem, as I had established a relationship with an excellent butcher when making my first Cockentrice, but the chicken was another matter! Finding one in my local supermarket or grocers was, of course, out of the question. No butcher I talked to could supply a whole chicken, slaughtered & dressed. The best recommendation I received was to attend a farmer's auction, purchase a live chicken, and do the butchering myself. Not quite ready to be this authentic, I began to give up the idea of ever being able to prepare this recipe properly, when, by chance, I heard that whole chickens were occasionally used in certain Jewish dishes and that I might be able to obtain one through a supplier of Kosher foods. Soon, a little more digging provided the answer I was looking for in the discovery of a Kosher poultry butcher, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I contacted the establishment, and was told that, yes, they did slaughter poultry and I could purchase one intact directly from them.

Obtaining the chicken was one of the most unique culinary experiences of my life, second only to my tour of a slaughterhouse while attending Culinary school! The butcher who could provide me with the rarity of a chicken with the head still attached was Greenburg's Kosher Poultry, located on Murray Ave. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Slaughtering was on Sundays, so I was told to be there about noon. Inside, the establishment itself didn't seem out of the ordinary, except for the fact that in the rear of the building, clearly visible through several open doorways and windows, chickens were methodically being killed, plucked, & gutted. Squawks and screeches filled the air, which had the occasional feather wafting through it. I presented myself to Mr. Greenburg, a polite and courteous gentleman who only seemed slightly curious about my purchase, and then waited while he prepared my order.

As I waited, I read a displayed newspaper article on Greenburg's and was surprised to learn that the chickens being slaughtered were in fact raised in the very same building, in a poultry farm located in the basement! According to the article, about 200 chickens were slaughtered each week, in the prescribed Jewish manner for Kosher preparation. First, a Rabbi blessed the chicken, then kissed a razor sharp blade and quickly slit the chicken's throat so it would feel as little pain as possible. The now dead chicken was placed in a machine which quickly removed all the feathers, and then in several expert moves was instantly gutted by one of Mr. Greenburg's assistants. I once again peeked into the back room, and saw that exact procedure laid out before me. Someone who was obviously a Rabbi was moving about the room, and whenever he would disappear from my view, I would hear the sound of a chicken loudly squawking. Then, suddenly, dead silence, and the Rabbi would reappear, holding a dead chicken which was then placed in the feather-removal apparatus. While that chicken was being prepared, the Rabbi would once again disappear from my view and the procedure would start over.

Soon, I had my bird. Handed to me while still warm, wrapped in butcher's paper, it had been alive only minutes before. This was one fresh chicken! It was a beautiful fowl, large and plump, weighing nearly 10 lb., with the head feathers and cockscomb still attached. I knew it would make a lovely rider for any suckling pig!

The 22 lb. pig was obtained from my usual butcher, McConnell's Meat Market of Richmond, Ohio, which also both raises and slaughters its produce. McConnell's, however, is a far cry from the streets of Pittsburgh, being located in the lovely countryside of south-western Ohio. Both animals were just the right size for each other, and if they weren't being specifically used as a Helmeted Cock would've made an excellent Cockentrice. They were carefully wrapped and frozen in preparation for the feast where they would make their appearance.

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Coqz Heaumez - A Helmeted Cock is © 2000 James L. Matterer jlmatterer@godecookery.com

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