Dig In: Getting the most out of your pricey pastured bird
A siren goes off in my house when Whole Foods has “number five chickens.” “Go! Go! Go!” Ben starts hustling us out the door.
Number five chickens are pasture raised, or as Whole Foods puts it: “Birds must live continuously on pasture or in foraging areas; sufficient vegetative material in forage areas to encourage natural behavior.” The key is “natural behavior.” These chickens live outside and forage for bugs just like their ancestors did. If we want to mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, animals raised on a vegetarian diet (read: corn and soy) don’t cut it. Not to mention that these diminutive chickens with spindly legs, narrow hips and flat breasts have more flavor than any butterball.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would come to stay. When she took over the menu, chicken became a daily event. It seemed like the only thing she could cook, but, in fact, my Depression-Era-born, home-economics-teaching grandmother was just cooking her way through one chicken. For the two of us, she got a week’s meals out of one bird.
Well-trained by Grandma, I’ll get five meals from one roast chicken. We’ll have the two breasts for dinner and give the upper wing bones and the “oyster bits” to the kids, then chop up the thigh and leg meat for pot pie, brew stock from the bones for soup, dress a salad with crispy chicken skin “croutons,” save the liver for pâté and make chicken salad with whatever is left (Last night, I pulled almost a cup of meat off the roasted carcass after I broke it down). Here are some recipes for getting the most out of your pricey pastured bird.
AUTUMN ROAST CHICKEN
one 3-lb. pasture-raised chicken
one small organic onion, quartered
two large organic carrots, peeled and sliced to ½ inch thickness
one medium organic sweet potato or yam, peeled and diced
one large or two small organic apples, peeled and diced
2 strips excellent quality bacon (Pastured bacon is hard to find around here unless you buy a whole pig. I use Beeler’s bacon when I can’t get truly Paleo bacon)
4-6 tbsp olive oil (I use Olive Fusion oils and vinegars)
1-2 cloves organic garlic, chopped
2 tsp organic rosemary, finely chopped
sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the onion, carrot, sweet potato, apple and bacon, half of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub the remaining olive oil on the chicken. Tuck the vegetables around the edges and garnish it all with garlic, rosemary and a little more salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and a half. Carve the chicken over the baking dish, so all the juices drip onto the vegetables. Stir the vegetables before serving.
MORE, BETTER CHICKEN STOCK
OK, I’m obsessed. I drink it every day, read about it every night and preach about it to anyone who will listen. I’m now giving my very patient husband unsolicited advice on making what used to be his specialty. Just this month, we’ve made stock out of chicken, beef, pork, duck, lamb and goose. Naturally, turkey is next.
Here are some improvements to my previous recipe:
After picking all the meat from the carcass, arrange the bones in a single layer in a wide stock pot, dutch oven or crock pot and add some chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cover it with 8 cups of filtered water and bring it to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 12 hours. Use a potato masher to smash the bones before straining and jarring the stock. This releases even more of the nutrients. Then refill the pot with another 8 cups of filtered water and get a second, lighter batch of stock from the same bird.
MARILYN’S CHICKEN POT PIE (ADAPTED TO BE PALEO)
With Grandma in town, roast chicken was immediately followed by chicken pot pie. She topped it with drop biscuits from her well-worn copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook. My Paleo version of drop biscuits is a little fluffier than hers, but I think she’d still approve.
3 tbsp pastured butter
1 small organic onion, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp chopped organic sage
2 medium organic carrots, finely chopped
3 stalks organic celery, finely chopped
3 cups homemade chicken stock
¼ cup organic tapioca flour
about 2 cups chopped leftover pastured chicken for the topping
1 ½ cups organic blanched almond flour
¼ cup organic tapioca flour
2 large pastured eggs
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp onion powder
1 tbsp raw Colorado honey
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven for 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and salt to the melted butter and stir to coat. Cover the saucepan and “sweat” the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sage and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, stir to coat, cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and turn the heat up to high. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Very gradually sift the tapioca flour into the liquid to thicken, stirring with a whisk to avoid lumps. Continue to simmer and whisk as the liquid thickens. Add the chicken and stir to combine. Divide the filling into four ramekins or pour it all into an 8×8 glass baking dish.
Add all the ingredients for the topping into a medium bowl and whisk together until there are no lumps. Scoop ¼ cup scoops of batter on top of each serving. The biscuits will more-than-double in size when baked, so space accordingly. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the topping is deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling up from the sides.
MARILYN’S CHICKEN SALAD
Grandma and I disagreed on many things: What time I needed to wake up for school in the morning (a cacophony of clangs bellowed from the kitchen each morning starting at 6 a.m.); how many photographs an adolescent girl should have to smile for in a row (just one more!); the lifespan of a sticky-backed christmas bow (endless). But we always agreed that chicken salad deserved grapes and lots of mayonnaise.
1 cup leftover pastured chicken meat, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp homemade or excellent quality store-bought mayonnaise (I love Sir Kensington’s)
¼ cup organic celery
¼ cup organic red grapes, halved or quartered depending on size
salt and pepper to taste
Serve over a bed of lettuce. Makes about 2 servings.
Go to bunintheoven.kitchen/digin for the recipe for Paleo Mayonnaise.
FRISEE SALAD WITH POACHED EGG
I’ve just discovered this technique and proudly offer it up in tribute to my grandmother.
Take the fattiest pieces of skin and dice them finely. Without adding any oil, cook them in a frying pan on medium high until they begin to sizzle and sputter. Turn the heat down to low and cook them until they are crisp and brown.
For a twist on a classic French salad, use these crispy chicken skin “croutons” in place of bacon lardons.
1 head organic frisee (spinach works well, too)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 pastured egg, poached
Tear the frisee into bite-size pieces and drizzle it with the rendered chicken fat from the crouton pan. Toss it with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the croutons and finish with the poached egg on top.
Handy Kitchen Hack: I use a ¼ cup (2 oz) sized mechanical ice-cream scoop for the drop biscuits. It is also the ideal tool for making jumbo cookies, portioning the perfect pancake, evenly dividing muffin batter, serving chicken salad on a bed of lettuce and, of course, scooping ice cream.
Save your liver! Go to bunintheoven.kitchen/digin for a recipe for chicken liver pâté.
Striving to grow made-from-scratch kids in a machine-made world, Julia Landon is the chef-owner of Bun in the Oven High Nutrient Bakery. Landon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more inspiration at http://www.bunintheovenfrisco.com or on Instagram or Twitter @BITOFrisco.
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