Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chicken Cooked in the Army

The entire Lincoln family moved to Illinois in the spring of 1830. Abe stayed for a year, helping the family clear the new farm. In 1831 he settled by himself in New Salem. Like all young men in the state, Abe was a member of the Illinois militia. When they were called to fight the Indian chief Black Hawk in the spring of 1832, he was elected captain of his unit.

Rations were tight in the wilds of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin where the militia campaigned. As George Harrison one of the men in the unit related, at one point Lincoln’s men raided the chicken coop on a farm abandoned by the owners who “skedaddled for fear of losing their scalps.” The hungry men tried simply roasting the scrawny hens over their campfire, but then took a notion to fry them in some grease rendered from a hog jowl one of the men had found up in the rafters of the smokehouse. That provided just enough fat and flavor to make the tough fowl as acceptable as “eating saddle bags.”

This adaptation captures the flavor of roasted, then fried, chicken but with today’s well-fed and store-purchased fowl it is considerably more tender and flavorful.

Bacon-Basted Militia Chicken
1 whole chicken
2 slices of bacon, diced
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Split the chicken along the spine. Flatten and place in a baking pan with at least 1-inch sides. Gently lift skin by sliding your hands between the skin and meat. Place diced bacon evenly over the entire chicken and pat the skin back down. Cook, basting with the pan juices from time to time, until chicken reached internal temperature of 170 degrees – about 25 minutes per pound.

Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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