Try cocks are small valves installed on steam boilers at safe high-water level and at the safe low-water level. When the boiler water column is inoperable, try cocks function as a back up system to determine the water level. The water level is determined by opening slightly first one try cock and then the other. The water level is indicated by the color of the plume escaping from the try cock orifice.

A steam plume is characteristically colorless, and will indicate that the water level is too low (i.e. below the level of the try cock orifice). A white plume, on the other hand, characterizes water. A false water level reading will be obtained if the try cock is opened too wide when the level of the water is only slightly below the level of the try cock orifice. The violent agitation of the water caused by a wide open try cock will result in some of the water escaping, giving the false impression that the level of the water in the boiler is at or above the try cock fitting.

On large steam boilers, a third try cock is often installed between the other two. Sometimes a try cock on these larger boilers is at a level too high to reach. When this is the case, chain operated lever-type try cocks are installed.

Wanting to do something special for the girlfriend but can't get theatre tickets? Parents coming to visit and you want to avoid the usual nagging and complaints? The boss or an important client coming over for a soirée and you need to impress?

Try cock!

Despite (or perhaps because of) its notoriety amongst liberal arts students, the cock is often overlooked as a mainstream social tool. This is a shame. Yes, it may lack the traditional charm of a night at the opera, and for convenience a pizza wins hands down. However, when properly prepared a cock is none the less a delightful treat.

If nothing else, it carries a considerable element of surprise.

On the selection and care of cocks

Cocks come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. You should make sure you select the appropriate cock for the occasion — after all, wasting good cock would be a heinous crime.

The amount of cock required to produce all-round satisfaction depends upon not just the number of mouths, but also upon how it is being served. A plain cock served straight up may make an adequate quicky, but for a formal occasion this would not be the done thing. Remember to factor in the accompaniments.

Obtaining a good cock can pose a slight challenge. Although cock is nearly ubiquitous, much of it is mediocre at best. Assuming you do not have a cock of your own, here are some tips you may find useful:

This next point is somewhat controversial. Many people, particularly in the west, prefer cock with the skin intact. They argue that the skin forms an essential part of the process and helps prevent the cock from sticking. Others prefer to remove the skin, citing health concerns.

Another point of disagreement is whether cocks should be kept in cages or allowed to roam freely. Certainly, caging a cock is cruel — considerable pain can be caused by the bars if the cock grows or tries to move around. On the other hand, keeping tighter control over a cock certainly makes things easier if it might be needed in a hurry.

Issues of Serving

The number of things that can be done with a cock are nearly limitless. Entire volumes have been written on the subject. Far be it for me to prescribe or proscribe any particular choice — I will merely make a few observations on a couple of topics.

The first is that of oil. Some are adamant that a cock's own natural juices are all that is needed. Others insist that a cock should be coated in lots of extra oil or grease. Personally, I believe in a happy medium, with lots of flexibility to suit the occasion. Often there is already sufficient liquid, particularly when a nice slow method is used, but I don't see anything wrong with using extras where the occasion warrants. Do, however, ensure that any oil you use will not cause problems with your equipment.

The other is that of red wine versus white. The textbook answer is, of course, a Chablis, Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio bianco or new-world Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc, but some traditional French methods call for a red Burgundy instead. Also, do not rule out other drinks in less formal situations — tequila in particular has been known to help encourage people to try new things.

The most important thing, though, is to have fun. A dinner party may not be the best time to try doing new things with a cock, so you may wish to get some practice in before the main event; however, don't make yourself nervous. The easiest way to ruin a good cock is through performance anxiety.

A mere chicken, you see, is almost eager to be eaten: you can grill, or broil or fry it, as you wish. However, it makes only meager stock, a mere bone broth, rich in gelatin, but scarce in flavor, and runs the risk of being dry and overcooked.


But a cock must not simply be broiled or fried or roasted. It becomes tough and stubborn: only by slow and gentle heat does it become tender, and flavorful. Some do it with wine, and some with herbs and spices, a whole day (or more) is not too much for it to grow and develop its full voluptuous richness....

OK, enough of the dumb double-entendres...

Blame my partner of these many years, who has yet to understand the concept of grocery shopping, at least for someone else, having Male Shopping Syndrome. Let me explain...

It was a simple assignment. One chicken, string beans. One pound of Italian sausage (Special Party Style, read the ad). Maybe a lemon. I'd meet him at the corner with my haul from City Pantry's free food bank. It was a cold November day, and I was looking forward to a couple of days of leisurely cooking: Sunday roast, yes, but also an Abruzzi-style sauce of epic proportions, made (in part) from the bounty of the self-same pantry, with tinned pork, frozen hamburger, Party Sausage, lots of cans of off-brand tomatoes...When I'd eat it all up I didn't know, but I supposed that it might not be a bad idea to put up some for the Winter. I'd meet up with him, have a sandwich at my favorite shop, maybe check out the other grocery for odds & ends....

I met him with a mad gleam in his eye. "Look at this!" He'd bought me not one but two large bags of fresh string beans, two and one half pounds sausage ("I just like the way it looked.") and piece de resistance, a bird. "Must be what, six, seven pounds? You can do something with that, right?" In other words, I didn't just do what you said, but I really, really, aced it.

I eyed the bird warily. I like a chicken large enough for three or four meals: one of legs, one of one breast, one of the other breast, stock from the carcass and gibs, and maybe some appy/snacky/stirfry thing out of the wings, skin, and suchlike. Every so often I do serious offal, and eat hearts and livers (I draw the line at feet and gizzards that are not to be made into soup.) Anything too small is just one-shot territory, like game hen, too large, like the Purdue Oven Stuffer Roaster or capon, and you risk tossing out the meat you couldn't stand to eat for the last six meals a week later. This was very large, with a thick skin, unlike your average water-injected factory farmed bird.Still, not to be sneezed at.

At 5:30 PM Sunday, I put the bird in the oven, with lemon and rosemary and garlic under its odd thick skin, and turned the timer on for an hour. I listened to NPR until Loreena Mc Kennit began to give out with a standard new-media-phobic screed about social media poisoning childhood, then switched over to my project of watching the entire run of Mission:Impossible, 60's version, with the original lineup.

Somewhen after Cinnamon and Rollin had just flummoxed a Near Eastern playboy (in a resort nothing at all like Monaco) into revealing the deal his country (which is nothing at all like Saudi Arabia) made with another power (which is not at all like Soviet Russia) while stringing him along on a high-stakes roulette game on an electronically controlled wheel, I flipped the bird over and added two ladles of hot water to the pan. It was a good solid bird.

I went back to giggling over the cheesy production values, the Mad Men-like constant smoking and drinking (mostly champagne, out of glasses that look like they were made for sorbet), and the idea that someone as plastic looking as Cinnamon could have passed as a 60's fashion model. I mean, like, Jean Shrimpton. Right?

Two hours. And then some. It's not cooking right. Same temperature. Same oven. Same pan as last week. The skin is darkening but the flesh isn't cooking. I take it out and put it onto the cooling board, make pan juices into sauce with a bit of this and that. Maybe if it cools a bit I can carve it. Nope. I wrestle off one leg. I bite into it. It's like biting into rubber. I can get a little skin and some shreds of flesh, but ...no.

It was then I realized I didn't have a roaster chicken on my hands. I. Had. A cock. (OK, so maybe it was a stewing hen. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story.) Suddenly, the Abruzzi sauce was moot. I had however many pounds of still-defiant testosterone-soaked bird carcass on my hands, and little idea how to proceed. Recourse to the Source of All Cooking Knowledge, my 1943 Joy of Cooking, was not especially forthcoming. I tossed it into my Slow-Cooker with a curse, a bouquet garni, and clamped on the lid, and sat down to a Sunday dinner of gravy-soaked rice and string beans, while telling Carmen, ever so diplomatically, that he'd screwed up. (Using the word "cock" a lot, helped. It seemed to soothe him.)

One day later, I had Chicken, ah, Cock Soup with Tortellini. I ditched the rest of the flesh, which if cooked properly could have gone into a pie, served over toast or rice, or any one of a thousand uses, took out and photographed the odd, solid, keel bone, and boiled down the rich, meaty stock with the gelatin I'd been saving off younger birds, and called it a day.



All that said, what do you do if you wish to Try Cock? Marination, in wine or vinegar, velveting, or even buttermilk, would seem to be indicated. Cutting up the bird before cooking helps the bird to cook evenly. Mature and complexly flavorful, a cock responds best to slow, moist cooking in a crockpot, red-stewed in soy sauce, or simply braised and cooked in its marinade. (The classic Coq au Vin is like this, as its modern counterpart Coq au Oui, with stock and fruit juices.) Allow three hours, at least, to cook a cock, and overnight for a stock. Although a chicken can overcook, this bird can go on for days and still have some flavor. As befits its meaty character, it goes best with a light red, such as (non-Nouveau) Beaujolais. Cocks yield a lot of cooked flesh, tasty stock and are a lot cheaper per pound than a regular bird, too.

Now you have no excuse not to... Try Cock!

Try cock. n.

A cock for withdrawing a small quantity of liquid, as for testing.

 

© Webster 1913.

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